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All Blacks to meet Tonga in World Cup opener

All Blacks to meet Tonga in World Cup opener

New Zealand will play Tonga in the first match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, launching a tournament which will involve matches spread around 13 venues over 44 days.
Tournament organizers, who announced the schedule in Auckland on Thursday, balked at staging a re-match between New Zealand and France to open the tournament and instead pitted the All Blacks against Pacific rivals Tonga in a low-key Friday night opener.
The All Blacks, who have not won the World Cup since it was last held on New Zealand soil in 1987, are in Group A with Tonga, France and qualifiers from Asia and the Americas.
Their pool clash with France, who upset the New Zealanders in the quarterfinals of the 2007 tournament and semifinals of the 1999 Cup, will take place at Auckland on Sept. 24
The tournament will begin Friday, Sept. 9 and conclude with the final at Auckland's Eden Park, currently under redevelopment, on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011.
New Zealand organizers resisted International Rugby Board pressure to restrict matches to 10 venues by scheduling matches in a wide range of provincial and metropolitan centers.
Rugby New Zealand 2011 "has worked very closely with Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) over the past few months to bring this to a reality," RNZ chief executive Martin Snedden said. "Our collective view is that the match schedule represents the best balance between ensuring a successful tournament in New Zealand while also recognizing its global standing."
Defending World Cup champion South Africa will open its campaign in Group D against Wales at Wellington on Sunday, Sept. 11. Australia, the only other two-time champion, faces Italy in the opening Group C match at Christchurch the same day.
England, which beat Australia for the 2003 title and lost the 2007 final to South Africa in Paris, opens against Argentina in Christchurch on Saturday, Sept. 10. Argentina was a surprise semifinalist at France in '07.
The French play the top Asian qualifier, likely Japan, on Sept. 10.
The tournament's 40 pool matches will be widely dispersed, posing challenges to New Zealand's transport and accommodation infrastructure.
Major centers Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch will host five pool matches each while Albany, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Dunedin will each host three matches.
Whangarei, Nelson, Palmerston North, Napier and Invercargill will host two matches.
"Our philosophy all along has been a stadium of four million (New Zealand's population)," Snedden said.
"We are pleased that all 11 regions will have the opportunity to host matches. Given that a total of 16 venues were proposed, we do appreciate that there will be disappointment among those who have missed out."
RWCL managing director Mike Miller said while there would be more match venues than at the 2003 Cup in Australia and 2007 tournament in France, the scheduled reflected the organizing committee's desire to take the tournament to the entire nation.
"RWCL fully supports this and the desire to ensure the tournament has a unique look and feel that fits in with the cultural background of the nation," Miller said.


Updated : 2021-05-11 03:59 GMT+08:00