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Eden Park plan all go
Eden Park's controversial $180 million World Cup facelift has been rubber-stamped by the International Rugby Board's World Cup Ltd.

IRB and World Cup Ltd chairman Syd Millar said yesterday the upgraded facility would be better than what had been proposed when the New Zealand Rugby Union successfully bid for the 2011 World Cup in November 2005.

He had no concerns about the standard of Eden Park for the IRB's glamour event and was confident work would be completed 18 months before the World Cup kicks off in September 2011.

"What we heard today was very positive," Millar said.

"The work that is going on at Eden Park is more than satisfactory.

"It fulfills the criteria New Zealand tendered on and, in fact, it will be better."

Millar confirmed the IRB had been aware of the often heated debate that had swirled around whether Eden Park should be upgraded or a new stadium built on Auckland's waterfront.

The NZRU made an hour-long presentation to World Cup Ltd in Auckland yesterday before the delegation flies to Wellington tonight for a meeting with Sports Minister Trevor Mallard tomorrow.

And Millar was at his diplomatic best when he declared the stadium debate irrelevant to the IRB as the upgrade to Eden Park ticked all the boxes. There were no concerns about the use of up to 20,000 temporary seats as they were extensively used at stadia in Europe and for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in Sydney and Athens.

Who will foot the bill remains the only point of serious conjecture, with NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs only prepared to say it was for the Government to work out.

Hobbs said work at Eden Park would start in about a year and would take about two more years to complete.

It was hoped games could still be played at Eden Park during construction. Other grounds are also being upgraded or rebuilt, including an ambitious proposals to build an indoor rugby stadium in Dunedin and a new stadium in Whangarei.

Hobbs said up to 12 venues would be used but which ones and for what games would not be known for another year.

Meanwhile, Millar admitted the tackled ball area was rugby's major concern but was confident new laws being trialled at Stellenbosch University, near Cape Town, would fix most of the problems.

Millar said rugby was a game to be played at pace with quick ruck ball, while still ensuring there was a contest for possession.

He was confident the proposed law changes would make the game better for the players to play, easy for the referees to control and more enjoyable for spectators to watch.

However, any changes will not be adopted till after this year's World Cup.