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World Cup - All Blacks to spend time in Christchurch


The All Blacks will spend five days in the earthquake-devastated city of Christchurch during this year's rugby World Cup after New Zealand's second largest city was stripped of hosting rights for seven games last week.

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Graham Henry's squad will spend five days after their second pool game against Japanand before the third match against Francetraining in the Canterbury region.

The region was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, which killed at least 166 people, caused substantial damage to the central city and eastern suburbs and badly affected the playing surface and stands at Lancaster Park.

World Cup organisers decided last week the damage was too great to repair in time for the five pool matches and two quarter-finals that were to be held at the stadium.

The quarter-finals have been relocated to Auckland with a decision on venues for the other five matches due before the end of the month.

The All Blacks had been seeded to play a quarter-final in Christchurch - which would have been their only on-field appearance in the South Island during the tournament.

"As soon as the announcement was made that Christchurch would not be hosting any rugby World Cup games we started making plans to take the team to the city during the tournament and we are delighted that we are now able to make it happen," All Blacks manager Darren Shand said.

"As we all know, the Canterbury region is a rugby stronghold, the All Blacks have a massive fan base there and many people are doing it tough so we want to give something back."

The All Blacks, who open the tournament against Tonga on September 9 at Eden Park in Auckland, play Japan in Hamilton on September 16. They will travel to Christchurch on September 17 and remain there for five days before returning to Auckland for their match with France at Eden Park on September 24.

"Christchurch has always been a great host city for the team and it's awesome that we've got the opportunity to come back and spend time with our fans in Christchurch," All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who lives in the city, said.

"It certainly will make a huge difference to the players - especially those of us who live here - and we hope the fans enjoy it as well."

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