Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden has said all World Cup matches will take place in the country, despite the devastating earthquake in Christchurch this week.
“Any assessment [of Christchurch] by us must wait while the rescue efforts take priority,” said Snedden.
He added: “Rest assured, the rugby World Cup will proceed and all matches will be in New Zealand.”
The tournament is scheduled to kick off on 9 September, but there has been speculation that some games could be moved to Australia following New Zealand’s deadliest natural disaster in 80 years.
Snedden, a chief executive of New Zealand Cricket, added: “There has been speculation that this tragedy puts the entire event in jeopardy or that matches will relocate to Australia. That is not the case.”
The first of seven matches set to be played at Christchurch’s Lancaster Park Stadium is scheduled for 10 September.
There have been no reports of damage to the stadium, which is due to host seven matches. However much of the infrastructure around the city needed to support the tournament has been damaged, including hotels and roads.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says he hopes Christchurch can still host matches.
“If we can host the rugby World Cup as we intend in Christchurch I would like to do that,” he said.
“It’s some way into the future but it’s a very important city to New Zealand. It would be a demonstration Christchurch is back up on its feet.
“One of the issues might be accommodation; there has been substantial damage to hotels.”
Snedden said the World Cup organising committee will be evaluating the city’s ability to stage matches.
“It is too early to talk in any detail about implications for the tournament in Christchurch,” he said.
“The next step will involve our organisation leading a thorough process of assessing the city’s ability to host the seven matches scheduled to take place there.
“This will involve an assessment of all the key World Cup infrastructure of the city including the stadium, hotels, training facilities and the transport network.
“A detailed evaluation of this nature will take place as soon as is reasonably possible. We are mindful of the pressure the people of Christchurch are under right now and do not want to place any more demands on them.
“Christchurch is a proud rugby city with a rich rugby heritage and we know the tournament means a lot to fans there.
“We are hopeful a clearer picture will emerge in the coming days to allow us to make the right decisions.”