The All Blacks will spend five days training in Christchurch in the build up to their decisive Rugby World Cup 2011 Pool A encounter with France, a change of schedule that captain Richie McCaw has labelled “awesome”.

The damage caused by last month’s devastating earthquake resulted in the city losing the seven matches it had been due to host during Rugby’s showpiece tournament, a decision reluctantly taken by Tournament partners last week.

The All Blacks will now fly to Christchurch on 17 September, a day after they face Japan in Hamilton, and return to Auckland later in the week to prepare for the match with France at Eden Park on 24 September.

“Christchurch has always been a great host city for the team and it’s awesome that we’ve got the opportunity to come back and spend time with our fans in Christchurch,” admitted McCaw.

“It certainly will make a huge difference to the players – especially those of us who live here – and we hope the fans enjoy it as well.”

McCaw and All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen revealed the plan during a visit to New Brighton Catholic School in Christchurch. The pair also visited Civil Defence headquarters to pass on the news to Mayor Bob Parker.

“As soon as the announcement was made that Christchurch would not be hosting any Rugby World Cup games we started making plans to take the team to the city during the tournament and we are delighted that we are now able to make it happen,” explained All Blacks manager Darren Shand.

“As we all know, the Canterbury region is a rugby stronghold, the All Blacks have a massive fan base there and many people are doing it tough so we want to give something back.”