THE DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE that struck Christchurch last month has led to a number of matches at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand being moved away from the city.
The quake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale, caused structural damage to the AMI Stadium which organisers fear may not be completed by September. As a result, the matches scheduled for Christchurch will be moved to other cities.
“This has been a painful decision for all parties,” said Bernard Lapasset, chairman of the International Rugby Board.
New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said organisers couldn’t run the risk of the stadium not being ready come the start of the tournament:
The risks are relatively high, especially if there is damage to the complex drainage of storm-water systems underneath the turf. There is also the risk of new testing exposing fresh problems and causing further delays
Christchurch was due to host two quarter-finals and five pool games. Organisers have said the quarter-final games will now take place in Eden Park in Auckland, but have yet to announce replacement venues for the group matches. Martin Snedden, chief executive of tournament organisers Rugby New Zealand 2011, told BBC Radio 5 live that a decision is expected soon:
We are going to make that decision and announce that hopefully by the end of next week, which will provide some clarity for people travelling. We are working hard to ensure as many pool matches as reasonably possible remain in the South Island.
Snedden said that Dunedin, Nelson and Invercargill were the likely hosts but added that two games may be played in the North Island.
Among those that will have to adjust their plans are England and Australia, who had both planned on using Christchurch as a training base.