England have confirmed they will make a goodwill visit to Christchurch on the eve of the Rugby World Cup.
The team were due to play pool matches against Argentina and Georgia in the city before the February 22 earthquake led to the games being moved to Dunedin, where England kick off their campaign against the Pumas on September 10. Team manager Martin Johnson and several members of the squad are due to visit Christchurch on September 7.
“The whole England squad was shocked by what took place in February and we wanted to show our support for the people of Christchurch who are getting back on their feet following such a tragic event,” said Johnson. “We know how keen they were to play a role in the Rugby World Cup and we were looking forward to being based there.
“I’m delighted that we’ll be able to visit and pay our respects shortly before the tournament gets under way next month.”
Hosts New Zealand are due to basing themselves in the city from September 17 to 20 while Australia will travel there on September 28. Rugby New Zealand 2011 CEO Martin Snedden welcomed the decision of the England and Australia teams to include Christchurch in their itineraries.
“I thank Martin Johnson and Australian coach Robbie Deans for making team members available for these visits during what is an intense time for any RWC team,” said Snedden. “But I know they will mean a lot to fans in Christchurch and the wider Canterbury area who should have been looking forward to seven RWC 2011 matches had it not been for the tragic events of just over six months ago.”