Dunedin new World Cup base for England
Heavyweights England are set to base themselves in Dunedin for the Rugby World Cup, rather than Auckland.
Rugby World Cup sources have revealed to Sunday News the intended venues for the five games to be moved from Christchurch because of the earthquake.
World Cup organisers are still working through a few logistic issues before venues are locked in, but once all the boxes are ticked, it will be confirmed that England will play Argentina and Georgia in Dunedin, Argentina will play Scotland in Wellington and Australia's two affected games mean they'll now be playing Italy at North Harbour Stadium and Russia in Nelson.
There is expected to be one further change to the schedule with Scotland v Georgia being moved from Dunedin to Invercargill.
Taking Scotland out of Dunedin is sure to disappoint some, considering the city's strong connections to the country. But with the number of games in Dunedin going from three to four, including the huge England v Argentina match, there won't be too many arguments.
It has already been announced that both of Christchurch's quarterfinals will move to Auckland to take advantage of the 60,000 seat capacity of the revamped Eden park.
There was considerable expectation that England's games planned for Christchurch would end up in Auckland too, especially when considering the large numbers of their supporters who will need to find accommodation.
Tournament organisers suggest as many as 15,000 England fans could be in New Zealand for the tournament. They will bring with them a huge financial windfall for any region they visit.
The news of this revamped schedule will come as a disappointment to those in Hamilton. The Waikato Rugby Union were desperate for more fixtures to help out with the chronic financial position it finds itself in.
The proposed changes have been circulated to the affected teams.
Confirmation of the new schedule is expected within the next 10 days.
The World Cup kicks off at Eden Park on September 9 when the All Blacks play Tonga.
Damage to AMI Stadium and a lack of infrastructure in earthquake-ravaged Christchurch resulted in the city losing its seven scheduled games. The IRB made the announcement in Christchurch last Wednesday.