RFU expect World Cup venue change due to earthquake

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Rugby Football Union expect to receive confirmation this week that England's Rugby World Cup games will be moved away from earthquake-hit Christchurch.

The International Rugby Board, who will make the final decision after consultations with the New Zealand government, are waiting on a final engineering report from AMI Stadium managers VBase.

New Zealand's World Cup minister Murray McCully has previously stated the pitch and stadium were both damaged by the earthquake, which hit on February 22 and measured 6.3 on the Richter Scale.

The assessment, which is due "imminently", will detail whether the repairs can be completed in time for the tournament, which kicks off on September 9.

Press Association Sport has been told it is "pretty unlikely" Christchurch will be in a position to act as a host city. It is understood the RFU are also working on that basis.

The RFU are waiting to hear from the World Cup organisers where their affected matches would be moved to before exploring new training facilities and accommodation options.

England already have pool matches in Dunedin and Auckland, which seems the most likely venue, while Wellington's 'Cake Tin' stadium could also be considered as an alternative.

World Cup organisers have insisted from the outset that all matches will be played in New Zealand.

In addition to the stadium's suitability to stage matches, the New Zealand government and World Cup organisers must consider the damaged infrastructure in Christchurch.

The Grand Chancellor hotel is one of up to 500 buildings that will have to pulled down following the earthquake, which claimed at least 166 lives.

A number of other hotels have also reported damage, including the Crowne Plaza where England planned to base themselves for the majority of the tournament.

The New Zealand government hope to make a recommendation to the IRB by the end of this week but Prime Minister John Key is under pressure to make an announcement sooner rather than later.

New Zealand's opposition leader Phil Goff said: "All of us would have wished that it was possible to host the World Cup in Christchurch but if the evidence that Mr Key has got says that can't happen then he's just got to show some leadership and tell the people of Christchurch what he knows."