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Johnson backs WC venue switch

England manager Martin Johnson has acknowledged that World Cup organisers have made a tough but correct decision in moving matches away from Christchurch.

Johnson's side were due to be based in the earthquake-hit city, which had been set to stage seven matches, including two of England's pool matches and one of Scotland's. The two quarter-finals scheduled for Christchurch have been moved to Auckland but England are still waiting on a decision about where the pool matches against Argentina and Georgia will be staged.

Johnson said: "We feel for the people of Christchurch who are still suffering following the tragic earthquake. We know how keen they were to play a role in the World Cup and we were looking forward to being based there. But we accept this is the right decision for the tournament and for New Zealand based on all the expert advice."

He added: "We are working closely with Rugby World Cup Limited to understand the possible options for our pool games and what that means for us in terms of a training base but understand the complexities involved so we are comfortable with a short delay while it is all being worked out.

"Once we are clear on the location of our pool games we will send someone out to recce the new training and match venues and accommodation. For now we are just focused on this weekend's (RBS 6 Nations) game in Dublin."

Christchurch's AMI Stadium suffered damage to the pitch and the stands in the earthquake, which hit on February 22 and measured 6.3 on the Richter Scale.

The decision was reached after the International Rugby Board and the New Zealand government received the final engineering report from Vbase, the stadium managers.

Vbase indicated that the repair time frames 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.

"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," said International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset.

England had been due to open their campaign against Argentina in Christchurch on September 10 and face Georgia there eight days later.


From Belfast Telegraph