On September 16, Newcastle Falcons will take on Saracens in a third round Aviva Premiership Rugby contest at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia and ex-London Irish, Worcester Warriors and Leicester Tigers hooker Hickie will be heavily involved in a spectacular curtain-raiser.
Dublin-born Hickie is the head coach of the Collegiate All-Americans, who will be playing against Oxford University before Newcastle Falcons and Saracens take to the field.
The All-Americans, who act as a development side for the United States Eagles national team, are the best of the best from college rugby and Hickie is anticipating a stellar occasion when his student athletes lock horns with their Oxford counterparts.
“It’s huge for us. Absolutely huge,” said the All-Americans chief, who was also recently appointed director of rugby and men’s team head coach for the U.S. Naval Academy.
“To be able to go up against Oxford is an honour – it really is because there’s plenty of focus on American colleges but Oxford University is known worldwide and it’s a very special game.
“To be able to play in a game like that is amazing, particularly when we have the setting of a regular season Premiership game over here.
“We’re unbelievably excited as coaches. We have almost everybody in our squad available and the hype and the focus on that game is starting to build up now, and it’s very, very exciting.
“The All-American tag is something that has been around for a long time and it’s applicable to any college sport.
“The easy way to describe it is that if you are able to call any athlete as an All-American, it means that they are the very, very best.
“We’re dealing with a massive country, a huge number of colleges, and a very, very large sporting population, so if you get yourself that All-American label, you are the very, very best.
“We’re the development team for the United States Eagles senior team and one or two of these guys have been capped within the last year but they’re still eligible to play for the All-Americans because they’ve only recently graduated.
“We’ll have Bryce Campbell, from Indiana University, and Matt Jensen, who plays at Brigham Young University in Utah.
“To have a couple of Eagles playing on the team is very exciting.”
Hickie, who also featured for Leinster, saw his playing days come to an end at Leicester in 2008 when he sustained a serious shoulder injury when trying to tackle Sale Sharks’ Jason Robinson.
Later that year, he linked up with good friend Mike MacDonald at Belmont Shore in California and swiftly carved out a successful coaching career across the pond.
He said: “I’m from Ireland and in Europe, you probably don’t appreciate the scale of college athletics in the United States.
“Everything is based around college sport and college sport is probably bigger than professional sport here – it’s massive.
“I got injured playing for Leicester Tigers. I tried to tackle Jason Robinson, which didn’t work and I was very good friends with Mike MacDonald.
“My plan was to come over to the States and play a few months, and then go back and try and get a contract in Europe, but I came over here to California and then absolutely fell in love with the place.
“This is now my home and I’m very proud to say it is.”