The Canterbury region will be part of the All Blacks Rugby World Cup campaign, with the All Blacks to train in Christchurch during the tournament, it was announced today.
The team will spend five days in the city in September in the week between their Rugby World Cup matches against Japan and France, All Blacks Manager Darren Shand said.
Shand said it was fantastic news that the team had been able to arrange an alternative schedule with Rugby World Cup organisers, Rugby New Zealand 2011, so that the team could spend time with people in Canterbury.
"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," Shand said.
"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," Shand added.
All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw and All Blacks Assistant Coach Steve Hansen delivered the good news during a visit to quake-stricken New Brighton Catholic School in Christchurch today.
McCaw and Hansen also visited Civil Defence headquarters to pass on the news to Mayor Bob Parker and the staff who have been working tirelessly since the 22 February earthquake.
McCaw said: "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. 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."
The All Blacks will fly to Christchurch on Saturday 17 September, the day after the team's Rugby World Cup clash against Japan in Hamilton, and fly to Auckland later in the week to prepare for the Test against France at Eden Park on Saturday 24 September.