Lapasset predicts 'extraordinary' World Cup
September 5, 2011
Rugby World Cup boss Bernard Lapasset greets England manager Martin Johnson on his arrival in Dunedin © Getty Images
International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset is confident that New Zealand will stage an 'extraordinary' Rugby World Cup tournament.
The sport's seventh World Cup will begin at Auckland's Eden Park on Friday night where a 'spectacular' opening ceremony will be followed by hosts New Zealand tackling Tonga and Lapasset believes the stage is set for a truly memorable few weeks.
"I think it will be a very extraordinary competition, a very great event in New Zealand because the whole country is behind it," he said. "Not just the team, not just the fans, but all four million New Zealanders are behind the World Cup and it will be a very successful tournament."
Speaking ahead of the big kick off, Lapasset reserved special praise for the New Zealand government who, along with the New Zealand Rugby Union and tournament organisers Rugby New Zealand 2011, saw the global economic crisis and the Christchurch earthquake threaten to derail the World Cup before a ball had been kicked. "There has been extraordinary government support," said Lapasset. "They have done the required work in the stadia, the roads, Auckland airport."
As for the tragedy that struck Christchurch in February, he added, "It is the founding town of rugby, the Mecca, where rugby was created in New Zealand. At a stroke everything stopped. We took time to grieve. The government finally announced themselves (mid March) that the fixtures due to be played there had to be moved.
"We had sold 220,000 tickets, so the people who had bought them had to be re-imbursed and put back on the market. The experts (seismologists) are not expecting anything as significant (during the tournament), so we are reassured by that."
Lapasset, who is up for re-election at the end of the year, is also confident the target of 1.3m ticket sales could be attained. "There were 1.6 million tickets for sale, it is not the 2.3 million that were available in 2007," he said. "We are trying to reach the target of 1.3 million tickets. We are not there yet but it has picked up momentum, that has happened since the end of the Tri-Nations.
"We were expecting at least 60,000 foreign fans and we are definitely going to go past the 100,000 mark because there are going to be 10-20,000 extra Australian visitors.
"We won't be far off the target. If we do reach the 1.3million tickets mark, those who bought tickets will not be bored. What we need now, are 20 teams with the ambition to play the game and deliver to the spectators what they are hoping for. That has always happened at a World Cup."
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