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Lapasset says NZ delivered exceptional World Cup

Updated: October 23, 2011, 21:40


AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) New Zealand has set the bar for future Rugby World Cups, International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset said on Monday.

A day after a riveting final in which the All Blacks pipped France 8-7 to end a 24-year wait for its second title, Lapasset dished out high praise for the New Zealand organizers and hosts of the IRB's seventh showpiece tournament.

"The legacy from New Zealand is a great legacy,'' he said.

"New Zealand 2011 will be remembered as one of the great Rugby World Cups, an exceptional tournament. It has been a tournament where New Zealand's rich culture and heritage has gone hand in hand with rugby's tradition and values.

"New Zealanders made it special by embracing the tournament across the country, welcoming all 20 teams and 100,000 international fans with open arms. It was quite remarkable.''

The IRB relies on the World Cup for 95 percent of its revenue. France 2007 delivered a net surplus of more than 122 million pounds (then $250 million), while New Zealand 2011 will provide an estimated 80 million pounds ($128 million), the second biggest in tournament history.

The IRB anticipated the shortfall based on New Zealand's isolation and population of only 4.4 million, and expected New Zealand, which conceived and hosted the inaugural event in 1987, not to be able to afford to host the tournament ever again. But seeing as it turned into "a sporting and operational success,'' as Lapasset called it, New Zealanders have backed bidding for another World Cup, possibly in 2031.

Asked if it will come back, Lapasset said, "the Rugby World Cup is not just to make money, it's also for rugby reasons, and we have a lot of rugby reasons to come back to New Zealand.

"New Zealand is a great rugby nation and has a great capacity to run a big and successful tournament. New Zealand 2011 has positioned the country as a major event host, a superb tourism destination and a welcoming nation. It has also taken our sport to new audiences and has set the bar for future hosts.''

New Zealand 2011's main revenue from the tournament came from selling tickets, and organizers said they met minimum targets by selling 87 percent of available tickets worth more than NZ$268 million ($215 million), leaving them with a loss of about NZ$39 million ($31 million). But organizers' chief executive Martin Snedden expected that to be wiped out by the taxes the government will collect from sales.

The number of international visitors, close to 120,000, surpassed expectations, and an estimated 1 million people enjoyed the fan zone set up on Auckland's waterfront during the six-week event.

After the severe disappointment of losing the co-hosting rights for the 2003 World Cup because they couldn't meet the IRB's commercial rules, New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Mike Eagle said they were grateful for the chance to impress the IRB.

Tournament chairman Brian Roche said he was comfortable in saying that they delivered what they promised in the bid they surprisingly won from Japan in 2005.

"We delivered 48 test matches in 45 days at 12 venues, moved 600 players and all their freight around the country, and there has not been a glitch,'' Roche said. "I've had the privilege of hearing feedback from the teams, managers and their supporters, and they have loved this tournament and loved this country.''

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