x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Christchurch loses rugby World Cup matches after earthquake

New Zealand's government confirms the city will not host its five pool matches and two quarter-finals as it will not recover from the 6.3 magnitude earthquake in time.

WELLINGTON // Christchurch, devastated by an eathquake in February, will not host any matches at this year's rugby World Cup after organisers decided the city would not be ready, New Zealand's government said today.

The city's ability to host five pool matches and two quarter-finals was thrown into doubt when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck on February 22, killing at least 166 people, levelling parts of the city and badly damaging Lancaster Park.

The quarter-finals will be moved to Eden Park in Auckland while the five other matches Christchurch was scheduled to host in the September 9 to October 23 tournament will be reallocated to other venues around the country.

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"It is with sincere regret that the stakeholders have agreed today that all of the 2011 rugby World Cup games scheduled to be held in Christchurch will be moved," the World Cup minister Murray McCully told a nationally televised news conference.

"The government had a very strong wish for all of the scheduled matches, or failing that, most of the scheduled games to be held here in Christchurch.

"At the end of the day we were faced with the reality that the risks were unacceptable in relation to the largest sporting event ever hosted in this country, one that calls for certainty and for the elimination of risk."

International Rugby Board (IRB) officials met with government ministers today after receiving reports on the venue's suitability to host matches and the city's ability to provide accommodation and fix infrastructure.

McCully said that the city would not have been able to offer enough accommodation for visitors.

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said it was a hard decision to make but the expert advice on the stadium and the infrastructure had left them no other option.

"The advice of experts and the stadium operators had been sought and every option explored, but in the end there had been no other option," he said.

"It has been a hard decision but it is a decision that all parties agree is in the best interests of the tournament and of New Zealand."

Tournament chief Martin Snedden said a decision on where the pool matches would be reallocated would be made by the end of March with each of the South Island's remaining three venues — Nelson, Dunedin, and Invercargill — likely to get a game each.

The other matches were likely be moved to North Island venues, he added.