Christchurch - The Crusaders have been forced to move their Vodacom Super Rugby home matches from AMI Stadium following a deadly earthquake this week, but the Christchurch mayor still hopes the city and stadium will be ready to host Rugby World Cup matches in September.
Nelson, at the north of New Zealand's South Island, is the leading candidate to host the eight Super Rugby matches but Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said on Thursday that "every stadium in Australasia" was an option. Riach said a decision was likely to be made on Friday.
SANZAR chief Greg Peters, who has held meetings with Crusaders officials this week, said on Thursday the club doesn't want to move their home fixtures too far away.
"The preference for the Crusaders is to play their home games in New Zealand. We had a very generous offer regarding the gate from the Waratahs for next week which was fantastic, but I think for the very understandable community reasons New Zealand is where those games should be played," Peters said.
"Hopefully we can do that within the Crusaders' catchment area, that would be ideal."
Nelson is about 430 kilometers from Christchurch, or about a six-hour drive. The Crusaders were expected to host the Waratahs on March 4 at home.
One of the Crusaders' board members, Philip McDonald, was among those killed.
"He was a lovely bloke and a guy that all of us in rugby liked, it's very sad and tragic," Peters said.
The Crusaders were scheduled to play the Hurricanes on Saturday in Wellington, but the game was canceled and deemed a draw with the teams taking two points each.
Christchurch mayor Bob Parker, meanwhile, said that the city was desperate to host World Cup matches, telling Australian Associated Press: "I'm determined that we have the Rugby World Cup here."
"The reason I say that is that our stadium appears to be fine and we will desperately need it," Parker said. "It's not just the physical property which is damaged, it's the psychological damage which is huge.
"My city needs events now to enjoy and bring us back together. I would implore those who are involved at the highest level not to rush into any decision. I will fight for it and so will our people."
His comments echoed those of Prime Minister John Key, who said Christchurch should retain the rights to host seven World Cup matches if it was at all possible. World Cup organizers have said a complete assessment of the Christchurch's stadium and infrastructure was needed before any decisions were made.
The death toll from Tuesday's earthquake in Christchurch rose to 98 on Thursday, with more than 200 missing.