World Cup success 'biggest thing ever'

New Zealand will host the 2011 World Cup, following a surprise decision by the International Rugby Board this morning.

The successful bid, beating favourites South Africa and Japan, caused surprise around the rugby world but brought widespread congratulations.

Sports Minister Trevor Mallard said it was "the biggest thing that's ever happened to New Zealand".

He said the event would bring an estimated 60,000 overseas visitors to New Zealand and generate $400 million of extra economic activity.

About 3.4 billion viewers would watch the games on television.

South Africa was voted out of the running in the first round of voting this morning and the race was then between New Zealand and Japan.

New Zealand was the outsider and after the announcement in Dublin at 5.40am NZT, some Japanese delegates were in tears.

NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs thanked Prime Minister Helen Clark and the other members of the New Zealand bid team.

He said: "Rugby is very important to us. It is just a very proud day to be a Kiwi."

He added: "We appreciate the confidence shown in us by the IRB -- and we won't let you down.

It is a very significant responsibility and we will honour that responsibility."

England rugby legend Bill Beaumont told Radio Sport: "Everyone’s happy. I think it's a great, great result.

"When you get to New Zealand, it is wall to wall rugby. Wherever you go, up to the Bay of Islands or down to Invercargill, there will be lots of people watching you train, watching you play, embracing the culture."

IRB chairman Syd Millar said the voting figures were to remain secret.

He said: "I think the passion that is in New Zealand rugby came through in different ways from Jock Hobbs, the Prime Minister, Pinetree and Tana Umaga then from Chris (Moller, NZRU chief executive) who rounded the whole thing off in a very businesslike way.

"I think you had an excellent team. (The decision) may surprise some people but why should it? New Zealand is a great rugby nation and hosted the Lions comfortably this year.

"It is a proud rugby nation hosting a great tournament."

New Zealand hosted and won the inaugural World Cup in 1987. It lost its sub-hosting rights with Australia in 2003 in acrimonious circumstances around advertising in stadiums.

Francois Pienaar, who led the South African bid, congratulated New Zealand. He said: "We knew it was going to be very close."

He had said its votes would go to New Zealand in the second round.

South Africa Rugby Union (SARFU) deputy chief executive officer Mveleli Ncula said: "We knew that it was going to be a very, very tight one.

"Why we're saying we are shocked is because hearing from the team they got very positive responses from all the countries that we spoke to."

- HERALD ONLINE STAFF, REUTERS , NZPA

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