DAMAGE TO AMI STADIUM HITS WORLD CUP HOPES

Christchurch's AMI stadium may miss out on hosting Rugby World Cup matches after damage caused by the 22 February earthquake.

The 44,000-seater venue was set to host two quarter-finals and five group stage games in the competition but the 6.3-magnitude quake damaged the stadium's stands and grounds. About 180 people were killed in the disaster.

The International Rugby Board has called in specialist engineers to carry out a structural assessment which will ultimately decide its fate. If the AMI is deemed unfit it will be good news for Eden Park in Auckland who will step in as an alternative host.

Prime Minister John Key said he has dim hopes of the earthquake-hit city participating in the event. "We all need to be realists here and we need to provide them (the IRB) with good, sound advice. We will do that," he said.

"Obviously, emotionally we want to hold the Cup (in Christchurch) but if we practically can't, then we won't, but let's not rush the decision," he said. The tournament is due to kick off in September, less than six months away, and Key is expecting a decision by the IRB by the end of the week.

Even if damage assessments on the stadium’s structure come back with the all clear Key thinks getting the pitch ready in time for the tournament would be no mean feat.

Posted on 15/03/2011