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Christchurch to host New Zealand-Ireland test

Updated: November 08, 2011, 01:04

WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) The earthquake-damaged city of Christchurch will host one of three rugby tests between New Zealand and Ireland in June at a new stadium which will also be home to the Canterbury Crusaders during the 2012 Super 15 tournament.

The June 16 match will be played at Rugby League Park which will undergo a $20 million renovation and will have a capacity for the test, with temporary seating, of 25,000.

AMI Stadium, the regular test venue in Christchurch and the Crusaders' home ground since 1996, was severely damaged in the Feb. 22 earthquake which killed 182 people.

"We are delighted for the residents of Christchurch that they will have a venue capable of hosting major international concerts and sporting fixtures,'' New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Mike Eagle said. "Christchurch has not hosted an All Blacks test match since the Bledisloe Cup match in August 2010.''

New Zealand will play six test matches at home in 2012. After meeting Ireland at Auckland on June 9, Christchurch on June 16 and Hamilton on June 23, it will host Australia, South Africa and Argentina in an enlarged southern hemisphere test series.

The new Rugby Championship, which replaces the Tri-Nations series, will take place in August and September.

New Zealand will play Australia at Auckland's Eden Park on Aug. 25, giving the Wallabies another chance to break their 25-year losing streak at the stadium which hosted last month's World Cup final.

The Argentina test will be in Wellington on Sept. 8 and South Africa will play at Dunedin's new indoor stadium on Sept. 15. New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said local fans would welcome the series against Ireland, who had performed particularly well at the World Cup, reaching the quarterfinals.

"Ireland really set the tournament on fire and it will be great to have them back in New Zealand next year,'' he said. "It is particularly special that they will play in Christchurch at the redeveloped Rugby League Park - the first test match in Christchurch since the Canterbury earthquakes.

"The Rugby Championship will see the return of traditional southern hemisphere rivals South Africa and Australia who usually bring out the competitive spirit in our rugby fans.

"The 2011 Rugby World Cup demonstrated exactly how exciting matches between these four countries can be, and how fans bring much of the color and atmosphere to a venue.''

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