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Quake threatens city's plans for Rugby World Cup matches

Dan Baynes in Christchurch

Published 24/02/2011 | 05:00

THE devastating quake that took such a toll on picturesque Christchurch may also have put paid to the city's chances of meeting its commitments concerning the hosting of this year's Rugby World Cup.

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"Right now it doesn't feel like we could host very much at all," Hamish Riach, chief executive officer of the Canterbury Rugby Football Union, told Television New Zealand. He said it was too early to be sure of the impact on the tournament because "everyone is in the immediacy of this traumatic event."

New Zealand's second-largest city is scheduled to stage seven games at the AMI Stadium during the September 9 to October. 23 event. These will include two quarterfinals.

Liquefaction caused by the quake has damaged the stadium's playing surface, with bubbles up to half a meter high appearing all over the pitch, TVNZ reported.

Priority

It could take at least five-and-a-half months before it's ready for rugby again, it said. Local organiser Rugby New Zealand 2011 said it would allow rescue efforts to take priority before assessing the city's ability to host the games following the 6.3 magnitude quake.

The assessment will encompass infrastructure including the stadium, hotels, training facilities and the transport network.

"A detailed evaluation of this nature will take place as soon as is reasonably possible," Rugby New Zealand 2011 CEO Martin Snedden said in a statement.

However, speculation that the entire event is in jeopardy or that matches could be shifted to Australia is wrong, Mr Snedden insisted.

The International Rugby Board, which owns the four-yearly world championship through its Rugby World Cup Ltd subsidiary, said in a statement that its "thoughts and deepest sympathies" were with the people of Christchurch.

The Dublin-based governing body said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the status of infrastructure or operations and the "focus at this point must be on the emergency response."

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that there had been no formal discussions on shifting the games from Christchurch. "It's some way into the future. It's a very important city to New Zealand and it would be a demonstration that Christchurch is back up on its feet," he told reporters.

Irish Independent

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