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Christchurch games moved

The seven Rugby World Cup matches due to be played in earthquake-hit Christchurch will be moved to other venues in New Zealand, tournament organisers have announced.

New Zealand's World Cup minister Murray McCully had 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 decision to switch the games - which include England's September pool meetings with Argentina and Georgia and Scotland's clash with Argentina - was reached on Wednesday after the International Rugby Board and the New Zealand government received the final engineering report from AMI Stadium managers VBase.

An RWC statement read: "Rugby World Cup 2011 tournament partners have today reluctantly decided that Christchurch will be unable to host the seven matches scheduled to be played at Stadium Christchurch and these will be rescheduled to be played at other venues in New Zealand.

"The decision was unanimously supported by tournament owners the International Rugby Board, the New Zealand Government, the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and tournament organiser Rugby New Zealand 2011 (RNZ 2011).

"This follows a detailed review of reports assessing damage to key tournament facilities and infrastructure caused by the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the city on February 22 and advice from the stadium operator, VBase, that it could not be certain that all necessary remedial work could be completed in time for RWC 2011."

The quarter-finals scheduled to be played at Stadium Christchurch have been reallocated to Eden Park, with no decision yet made as to which RWC venues will host the pool matches.

VBase indicated that the repair timeframes were so tight there would be no leeway for work delays or for any risks that would impact timelines, meaning they could give no assurances that the venue would be ready in time.

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, who travelled to Christchurch for the announcement, said: "Yesterday we were informed by Stadium Christchurch operator VBase that it could not guarantee that the extensive repairs required could be completed in time.

"That information, coupled with a thorough review of every aspect of hosting RWC 2011 in the city, means that tournament partners have been left with no choice but to make the difficult decision to reallocate the seven matches due to be played in Christchurch."

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