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IRB happy to temporarily bed down in garden of Eden
Monday March 05, 2007

Financing Eden Park's 2011 World Cup makeover is still to be finalised, but the International Rugby Board (IRB) remains confident the $190 million upgrade will leave it as a worthy venue to host the final.

The Rugby World Cup (RWC) board met with New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chairman Jock Hobbs in Auckland today and quickly rejected any doubt Eden Park would not host the crowning glory of the sport's showpiece event in October 2011.

RWC chairman Syd Millar was unequivocal when asked if the controversial debate over whether Eden Park, with up 10,000 temporary seats, had prompted any second thought among the sport's governing body.

"We're very happy. We don't expect we'll need a contingency plan.

"On the information we have the stadium should be ready 18 months before we need it," Dr Millar said after Hobbs oversaw a briefing ahead of a full IRB board meeting tomorrow.

" The work that is to go on at Eden Park is more than satisfactory, it fulfils the criteria the New Zealand Rugby Union tendered on."

Dr Millar said he had been briefed on the stadium debate which involved the discarded waterfront stadium, and two distinctive plans for Eden Park, including a $385 million fully-enclosed upgrade.

Ultimately the government has backed a cheaper plan which features a new southern stand and up to 10,000 temporary seats to lift the capacity to the IRB's stipulated 60,000 seat minimum. It is expected to cost between $175-$190 million.

"We knew there were options being considered but that's not our business," he said.

"It's the business of the host union, the government and the city and regional government.

"We're quite happy this issue has been resolved."

Hobbs, speaking in his dual capacity as chairman of Rugby New Zealand 2011 Ltd, said he hoped construction on the new south stand would start in 12 months and estimated it would take two years to complete.

He could not specify how the project would be financed though obviously the government would play a leading role and hoped for support from Auckland ratepayers.

Hobbs also pleaded for the public to look beyond the bottom line.

"I think people need to get off costs and start thinking about the investment and return Auckland and New Zealand as a whole is going to get out of this," he said, estimating the 48-match tournament would be worth $1 billion to the economy.

He anticipated up to 70,000 overseas visitors .

Hobbs also updated the Rugby World Cup board on planned redevelopments in Dunedin -- where Carisbrook could be replaced by a new enclosed stadium near Otago University -- and Christchurch's Jade Stadium, which is considering replacing the existing No.1, 2 and 3 stand.

Hobbs warned it would be "challenging" for Dunedin to host any major World Cup games if no action was taken.

He said a decision on which 11 or 12 venues would host matches was about 12 months away.