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Time short to make knock-out host bid
Sunday March 16, 2008
By Gregor Paul

Unions hoping to host a 2011 World Cup quarter-final have only four months left to submit their bid.

The company in charge of organising the next World Cup - Rugby New Zealand 2011 Limited - has confirmed hosting bids need to be filed by July with a decision on knockout venues expected towards the end of August.

Eden Park has already been confirmed as the venue for both the semifinals and final but the four quarter-finals as well as the dreaded bronze medal match have not yet been allocated.

AMI Stadium in Christchurch and Westpac Stadium in Wellington are each expected to be awarded a quarter-final. Waikato Stadium, Carisbrook (or the proposed stadium at Logan Park), North Harbour and Mt Smart are seen as likely bidders for the other two although the organisers might be tempted to award Eden Park another knockout game to try to maximise ticket revenue.

Once RNZ2011 Ltd has revealed the knockout venues, it hopes to receive all other hosting submissions for pool games and team bases in October ahead of the World Cup draw in December.

At a recent IRB meeting, it was agreed the governing body's ranking as at December 1, 2008, will determine the pool seedings of the 12 teams granted automatic qualification - New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, England, France, Scotland, Fiji, Italy, Wales, Tonga and Ireland.

Those teams will be split into bands so that seeds 1-4 are in different pools as will teams ranked 5-8 and 9-12 to ensure even competition across the four pools.

RNZ 2011 general manager Nigel Cass, said: "We should then be able to confirm where and when pool matches will be played by March 2009.

"We are committed to this idea of a nationwide festival - that is a fundamental part of the delivery of this tournament."

At this stage there is no indication on how many pool games each successful venue could host.

Three of the pools will be decided on geography - the games will be clustered in one enlarged region - with the pool containing the All Blacks to be scattered across the country.

"Clearly having the Cup at home, we want to see the All Blacks play across the country and we want as many people as possible to to be able to see them so that is going to be in bigger venues."

RNZ2011 Ltd will also decide by March 2009 where teams will be based. In 2007, teams chose one or sometimes two bases during the pool stages. The All Blacks chose to stay in Marseilles and Aix en Provence, and then travelled to their match-day venue the req-uisite 48 hours before kick-off.

That system will be adopted in New Zealand and Cass said that the 12 teams already qualified, as well as a wider group of countries likely to qualify, will be asked their preferences in regard to the type of venue they prefer.

We will ask the qualified teams to list their generic wishes in terms of whether they prefer a small or large city, to be based in one place or a number of places.

"Once we know which teams are playing in which pools then we will provide each country with a short-list of venues that we believe matches their needs as well as those of the venue."

A recent visit by the French delegation that hosted the 2007 tournament revealed that the economic hosting benefits to the nation were worth almost 4bn (NZ$8bn).

Those numbers are well in excess of original predictions and highlight why every region in New Zealand is keen to host games as well as teams.

Hawke's Bay Rugby Union chief executive, Mike Bishop, said: "We are putting in a proposal and we hope to host games as well as teams.

"My understanding is that hosting a quarter-final might be a bit big for McLean Park but we are hoping for the highest level of game we can.

"We would love to have a high profile team, maybe one of the Six Nations. We are an all-year-round tourist destination and we put big events on in the normal course of the year so we could offer visiting fans a memorable experience."