Christchurch wiped out of RWC - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Christchurch wiped out of RWC

By Jim Morton 16/03/2011 07:55:13 PM Comments (0)

Auckland looms as the Wallabies' new Rugby World Cup base after earthquake-ravaged Christchurch was removed as a tournament venue.

RWC organisers on Wednesday made the logical yet difficult decision to move all seven matches scheduled for New Zealand's third biggest city.

Christchurch was set to hold two of the Wallabies' pool matches - their first against Italy on September 11 and last against Russia on October 1 - as well as host the Australian team for 19 days during the preliminary stage of the tournament.

With coach Robbie Deans one of Canterbury's favourite sons, the Wallabies were assured of great support due to a home-town 'Deans Factor'.

Deans himself was philosophical about the decision which leaves New Zealand's most successful recent rugby heartland a RWC black hole.

"While today's news is disappointing for Christchurch, having been in the city earlier in the week and able to assess the damage for myself, the decision is understandable," the five-time Super Rugby title-winning coach of the Crusaders said.

"As important as the hosting of the Rugby World Cup is to the people of New Zealand, the people of Christchurch have more important issues to deal with as they endeavour to rebuild their city and their lives after the recent tragedy.

"Obviously we would have loved to have played in Christchurch."

Deans and Australian Rugby Union officials are awaiting further information regarding new venues and accommodation options from tournament organisers.

Rugby NZ2011 chief executive Martin Snedden indicated two of the five Christchurch pool matches were likely to be shifted to the North Island, with the other three to be shared in Dunedin, Nelson and Invercargill.

Australia's clash with Italy and England's pool match against Argentina are the two biggest of the five games and seem the most likely to be moved north to major centres like Auckland and Wellington.

Auckland, which has also picked up both of the two quarter-finals moved from Christchurch's badly-damaged AMI Stadium, has by far the biggest infrastructure and best ability to accommodate Australian supporters.

The Wallabies will play their second pool match at Auckland's Eden Park on September 17 against Ireland before meeting the United States in Wellington the following weekend.

Test hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau admitted it was disappointing to lose the Deans factor in Christchurch but said it would have little affect and Australia would "adapt on the run".

The RWC decision forced New Zealand prime minister John Key to defend himself of raising false hope after he said the city would rebuild and host matches following the 6.3-magnitude quake that hit on February 22, leaving up to 200 people dead.

Christchurch Mayor Tom Parker, who also fought tooth and nail to retain matches, was "gutted" by the announcement.

"We're facing a long, hard winter here in this city of ours," said Parker.

"We were looking forward to a spring that would be brightened by having the Rugby World Cup here in our city."

Ticket-holders for matches in Christchurch will be offered refunds or tickets to re-allocated matches.

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