Tournament Organiser Rugby New Zealand 2011 (RNZ 2011) today announced the revised match schedule for Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011) following the decision to reallocate all matches from Christchurch because of the impact of the devastating February 22 earthquake.
The new schedule has been developed by RNZ 2011 in consultation with Tournament owners Rugby World Cup Limited.
Three of the five rescheduled Christchurch pool matches will remain in the South Island. Nelson, Dunedin and Invercargill will each host an additional match. The remaining two matches have been reallocated to Wellington and North Harbour. As announced two weeks ago, the two quarter-finals due to be played in Christchurch on October 8 and 9 will be played at Eden Park.
Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset said that all Tournament stakeholders had been supportive throughout the rescheduling process.
“Following the difficult decision to transfer the Christchurch matches all involved have worked hard to confirm the new venues as quickly as possible. We are pleased that three of the five matches will remain in the South Island.
“We appreciate the patience shown by the teams and fans during this difficult period and are enormously grateful for the support and cooperation of all our partners during what has been a complex process,” said Lapasset.
RNZ 2011 CEO Martin Snedden said: “Today’s decisions provide the certainty for the affected seven teams, their fans and media around the rescheduled matches. This has been a complex logistical process, but with the help of our Tournament partners, the arrangements are now complete.”
Otago Stadium confirmed
RNZ 2011 also announced that the new fully enclosed Otago Stadium, now nearing completion, has met the criteria to be confirmed as a RWC 2011 match venue.
“The Otago Stadium operators have provided us with the assurances we need for us to now be confident that the new venue will be ready to deliver on its Tournament obligations so we are pleased, today, to formally confirm this excellent new facility as a RWC 2011 match venue,” added Snedden.
Also, as part of the rescheduling, operational reasons have necessitated the transfer of one non-Christchurch match, Scotland v Georgia, from Dunedin to Invercargill.
The decision was made following a detailed consideration of alternatives. This included the possibility of moving England v Georgia to Invercargill, but this was rejected because of the significant operational challenges that would arise from what would have become a double-header weekend in the town (Argentina v Romania is being played in Invercargill on September 17).
“Our desire was always to transfer as many of the Christchurch pool matches as was reasonably possible to other existing South Island venues,” said Snedden.
“At the same time we are very conscious that time is pressing, with just 163 days to go before the world’s third largest sporting event kicks off, so we have also sought to minimise disruptions to ensure as few teams and their supporters were affected as possible. This has meant minimising any changes to matches that weren’t originally scheduled for Christchurch.
“All partners and the New Zealand Government hoped that we would be able to transfer all the pool matches to South Island venues. In the end, this wasn’t possible for a number of reasons, including venue capacity, accommodation and operational issues.
“Nelson, Dunedin and Invercargill were logical choices to each host one additional match. But there were always going to be significant problems going beyond that.
“For example, although it was considered, we came to the view that Dunedin could not have reasonably hosted the Australia v Italy match the day after hosting its first major match, England v Argentina.
“We were concerned about the pressure that back-to-back matches would impose on what will be a largely untested venue and a new playing surface.
“In addition, accommodation facilities in the city and surrounding region would also have been under severe pressure from the expected influx of 20,000 fans from outside the region that a double-header would bring.
“While we know that our rescheduling decisions won’t please everyone, on balance, we have achieved the best possible result taking into account all relevant factors. We firmly believe that RWC 2011 will be a Tournament which all New Zealanders can experience and be proud of and will continue the outstanding success of recent tournaments.”
Ticketing refund / Priority purchase process
Ticket purchasers for all Christchurch matches and/or the Scotland v Georgia match will receive a refund and the opportunity to secure replacement tickets to the relevant rescheduled matches during a priority purchase period.
This process will be implemented in two stages. The first stage will involve RNZ 2011 refunding to affected purchasers the face value of any tickets purchased for the rescheduled matches. This process will begin on April 8 with a target completion date of April 30.
The second stage, from mid May, will provide affected ticket purchasers with the opportunity to secure replacement ticket(s) to the relevant rescheduled match(es) they still wish to attend.
“We wish to acknowledge and thank fans for their patience over the last month or so. We are about to embark on an unprecedented ticket refund and repurchase process for a major event, a process which involves us dealing with 20,000 customers who have purchased 150,000 tickets between them,” added Snedden.
Team Bases confirmed
The rescheduling decisions have also meant a number of changes to Team Bases. Queenstown will now host Georgia as well as Ireland, Romania and England. Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury becomes a new team base and will host Australia over four nights. Last week it was announced that New Zealand will visit Christchurch prior their opening Pool A fixture against France.