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No cup for Christchurch, reports say

By Tamara McLean, AAP New Zealand Correspondent 10/03/2011 03:16:32 PM Comments (0)

Christchurch has most likely lost its chance to host the Rugby World Cup in the wake of the deadly February quake, British media have claimed.

Sports commentators at London's Daily Telegraph newspaper have devastated New Zealanders with reports that authorities have "unofficially" decided the South Island city is too damaged to play host to the major international rugby tournament.

Instead, the host games and two quarter-finals due to be played at Christchurch's AMI Stadium will now be shifted to another New Zealand city, said Eric Janssen, an online rugby commentator at the newspaper.

"There are two distinct lines here, there's the official line from the RFU (Rugby Football Union) which is, in a nutshell, `we'll take our cue from the IRB (International Rugby Board) and await all the official reports before a decision is made'," Janssen told Radio New Zealand on Thursday.

"But the unofficial line is very much `we don't think Christchurch is for us'."

A national state of emergency has been in place in the city since the 6.3-magnitude quake struck on February 22, killing a least 166 people and wreaking NZ$15 billion in damage.

More than 10,000 homes were destroyed and much of the central city, including the city's biggest hotels where both the Australian and English teams were to stay, were badly damaged.

The stadium itself was also hit, with major structural damage to two stands and the grounds left bulging with liquefaction.

Initial engineering surveys have been completed, with results to be handed to the country's world cup minister Murray McCully on Thursday before being made public next week following consultations with the IRB.

Mr McCully today dismissed that Telegraph report, telling journalists "It doesn't seem like an accurate view to me".

"I've been the person talking to the IRB, and the IRB have said that they want to deal with facts here, that they want to see reports from professional engineers and others and make a decision in a responsible and professional way," the minister said.

The journalist insisted his information was reliable, saying the IRB wanted "no compromise" on tournament standards.

"Make no mistake though, there's a lot of good will here and if it was truly feasible people would love to contribute to the rebuilding of Christchurch by hosting the matches there."

He said there was a nervousness among the hundreds of English fans who had already booked flights and accommodation in the city.

"They're spending big money, they'd like to be safe, they'd like to be reasonably comfortable. They'd love to go (to Christchurch) but if it's going to be a terrible experience they'd rather go elsewhere."

Meanwhile, the city's mayor, Bob Parker, tried to play down the lack of accommodation, saying provincial towns "no more than an hour away" could help accommodate visitors.

"This could be one of the most inspirational parts of the Rugby World Cup we will ever see," Mr Parker told TV3 on Thursday.

"If His Majesty the Prince can come to this city next week ... I think the English rugby team would feel less than men themselves if they cannot come down."

A final decision on Christchurch's host ability is expected in the next two weeks.

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