Rugby

Christchurch to miss RWC

2011-03-15 07:45
AMI stadium (AFP)
Christchurch - Quake-ravaged Christchurch will lose its Rugby World Cup hosting rights on the back of a new report showing the city's stadium is unfit for games, British media is reporting.

London's Daily Telegraph newspaper says it has confirmation from a senior International Rugby Board (IRB) source that the engineers' structural report will end the city's hosting chances.

Christchurch was set to host two quarter-finals and five group stage games in the competition.

However, the 6.3-magnitude quake that struck on February 22 destroyed much of the CBD, where hundreds of fans were to be accommodated, and damaged AMI stadium's stands and grounds.

About 180 people were killed in the disaster.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker have both been actively fighting to keep the games in the city, saying the town was safe despite aftershocks.

But the Telegraph online said on Tuesday that the report on the state of the stadium was "bleak" and showed it "will not be fit for purpose in time for the start of the tournament in September".

It said the IRB had promised all games would still be played in New Zealand.

The decision is likely be confirmed by the IRB and the New Zealand government in the next 48 hours, the report said.

The newspaper also confirmed that the England squad, which was to be staying at the city's damaged Crowne Plaza hotel, are now likely to be based in Auckland for the tournament.

The Wallabies were also due to be based in the city for three weeks, staying at the Millennium Hotel in the damaged CBD's cordoned-off area.

The team has yet to announce an updated plan.

The news is in keeping with reports from commentators in recent days.

Late last week British rugby writer Peter Bills said residents and officials alike needed to face the "harsh, brutal truth" that the city will have to miss out.

"After two earthquakes and many aftershocks in the Christchurch area over the past six months, who on earth could make a decision to go ahead with inviting thousands of overseas rugby supporters into the region, guaranteeing that there would not be another quake?" Bills said.

 Key has emphatically denied this risk, saying "I go there on a very regular basis and I don't feel unsafe".

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