Rich and famous (and royalty) set for Rugby World Cup

By Michael Dickison

Prince William and Prince Harry won't be here, but we might get the newly married Albert II, Prince of Monaco, at the Rugby World Cup.

He is among many heads of state and celebrities rumoured to be heading our way.

Prince Albert is said to be a huge rugby fan and has been in the headlines with his marriage last month to Charlene Wittstock.

The consul for the Principality of Monaco in New Zealand, Richard Worth, yesterday declined to say what the prince's plans were.

Several political leaders will also be in New Zealand for the Pacific Islands Forum, which coincides with the tournament's opening night.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, US Assistant Secretary of State for Asia Pacific Kurt Campbell, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and Tongan Prime Minister Lord Siale'Ataonogo Tu'ivakano are all expected to be in Auckland for the forum - and are likely to be at Eden Park's VIP area when the All Blacks play Tonga on September 9.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeaki Matsumoto and Japanese former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori have all been tipped to visit for the cup.

Virgin boss Richard Branson has confirmed he will attend, and there is talk of Facebook executives having a base on the Auckland waterfront during the tournament.

About 50 superyachts are heading here for the tournament, booking out marinas.

A superyacht captains' forum has been scheduled for September 15 and 16, reflecting the number of high-flyers likely to be in town.

New Zealand-built luxury sailing yacht Vertigo is expected to arrive in Auckland for the tournament and the Russians are also said to be coming, with one superyacht owner spending $30,000 on tickets.

One 90m vessel is booked for the council-owned Jellicoe St berth. Others range in length from 59m to 67m.

Zara Phillips, the British royal recently married to English rugby player Mike Tindall, is expected to be here.

Many other celebrities will also accompany their rugby-playing boyfriends.

They include singers Duffy and Una Healy, former Miss France Alexandra Rosenfeld, models Lucie Jones, Ruth Griffin and Kelly Ingram-Walpole, actresses Susie Amy and Amy Huberman, and TV presenters Kirsty Gallacher and Alex Jones.

- NZ Herald

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