Wellington - A 17 000-seat temporary stadium will host rugby union matches, including an All Blacks vs. Ireland Test, in earthquake-hit Christchurch next year, Prime Minister John Key said on Tuesday.
Key said the venue was an interim replacement for Christchurch's AMI Stadium, which was severely damaged when a powerful quake devastated New Zealand's second largest city last February, killing 181 people.
He said the NZ$20 million ($16 million) stadium, to be built just outside the city centre at Rugby League Park, would be completed by March next year, providing a home venue for the Canterbury Crusaders Super 15 team.
Key said it would also allow Christchurch to host an All Blacks v Ireland Test in June, after the city missed out on holding matches during the recent Rugby World Cup because of its extensive earthquake damage.
"Cantabrians have had to endure so much over the past 14 months, with the series of earthquakes meaning they missed out on hosting any Rugby World Cup matches and all of the Crusaders' and Canterbury ITM Cup home games this year," he said.
Canterbury Rugby Football Union chief executive Hamish Riach said that bringing rugby back to Christchurch was a major step in "reclaiming our city" after a tough year.
"We know that rugby has played an important part in helping people to rebuild and put their lives together," he said.
AMI Stadium, which before the quake was slated to host seven World Cup games, including two quarter-finals, will remain closed until at least the end of next year as engineers assess whether it can be saved.
The temporary stadium is expected to have a lifespan of three to five years.