France opt for fleeting visit only to Christchurch

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2013
Thierry Dusautoir
Getty Images
SNUB: Thierry Dusautoir and the French will only arrive in Christchurch the day before their test.

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France will snub Christchurch ahead of next month’s test against the All Blacks.

Instead of staying in the city ahead of the June 15 match at AMI Stadium the French will only arrive the day before the match.

The tourists will spend the majority of their time in Auckland during the three-match series. The first test is at Eden Park on June 8.

Canterbury Rugby Football Union boss Hamish Riach wanted France to stay longer in Christchurch but noted they were entitled to map-out their own travel schedule.

‘‘We respect their right to do it their way,’’ Riach said. ‘‘Clearly if we had a preference it would be nice to see them in and around town for a few more days but, equally, they have to do what they feel is right.’’

Riach didn’t know the reasons for France declining to stay in Canterbury longer. Given the city’s struggle to attract overseas visitors since the earthquakes, a bigger commitment by the French would have been welcomed.

There will be several unwelcome spin-offs from avoiding the city. Commercial and community stakeholders will undoubtedly prefer France to be here longer to promote the match and their travelling media, the majority who are likely to be based in Auckland, will be restricted in what coverage they can give Christchurch.

Last year Ireland arrived in the city several days before their test. This season the Bulls and Southern Kings have stayed at the Clearwater Resort for most of the week before playing the Crusaders. Playing golf, taking jetboat rides or sight-seeing trips are often popular with Super Rugby sides.

Bill Bush, who toured South Africa, the United Kingdom and Ireland with the All Blacks between 1974-79, believed the French may prefer the busier nightlife of Auckland.

‘‘It might be more about the destruction of the earthquake and what happened here. Maybe they think there is something more to do in Auckland.’’

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter declined to comment.

Les Bleus will return to Auckland following the Christchurch test to prepare for their final match in New Plymouth on June 22. They will only arrive in Taranaki the day prior.

The All Blacks will arrive in Christchurch and New Plymouth a week before each test.

Taranaki chief executive Neil Pennington would have preferred France stayed longer in his region.

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‘‘Absolutely, yes, that would have been our preference. I don’t know the reasons for coming so late and we didn’t press them on it.

‘‘It would have been good to showcase them our province, for them to get among the kids and the community. It’s unfortunate. Even a day earlier would have been good.’’

France last played in Christchurch in 2003. The All Blacks won 31-23 at Lancaster Park.

- The Press

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