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England set to visit Christchurch

England manager Martin Johnson has confirmed the team will make a goodwill visit to Christchurch before the start of the Rugby World Cup.

Christchurch was due to host England's pool matches against both Argentina and Georgia before it was devastated by an earthquake in February which left 181 people dead and the fixtures were subsequently moved to Dunedin. England open their World Cup campaign against the Pumas on September 10 but were keen to offer support to their would-be hosts.

Johnson said of the scheduled visit: "The whole England squad was shocked by what took place in February and we wanted to show our support for the people of Christchurch who are getting back on their feet following such a tragic event."

He added: "We know how keen they were to play a role in the Rugby World Cup and we were looking forward to being based there.

"I'm delighted that we'll be able to visit and pay our respects shortly before the tournament gets under way next month."

The decision was welcomed by the chief executive of Rugby New Zealand, Martin Snedden.

"I thank Martin Johnson and Australian coach Robbie Deans for making team members available for these visits during what is an intense time for any RWC team," he said.

"But I know they will mean a lot to fans in Christchurch and the wider Canterbury area who should have been looking forward to seven RWC 2011 matches had it not been for the tragic events of just over six months ago."

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