7 Sep 2011

Deans disappointed for quake-hit Cantabrians

12:01 am on 7 September 2011

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says he is disappointed for Cantabrians that recent earthquakes have deprived them of being able to attend Rugby World Cup matches in Christchurch.

Teams from Australia, England and Tonga were officially welcomed at ceremonies on Tuesday.

About 200 fans welcomed the Australian side at Aotea Square in central Auckland.

The Wallabies were to play their opening pool match against Italy on Sunday in Christchurch, where Deans played for Canterbury and the All Blacks before coaching the Super Rugby side the Crusaders.

But the devastating quake on 22 February caused damage to many parts of Christchurch, including AMI Stadium, forcing games to be held elsewhere.

Deans says losing the Cup games had been hard for Cantabrians on top of their other difficulties.

"To be honest, the challenges will last for a long time and the place will never be the same again - so they're going through a tough time.

"It's a double whammy for them to now have to sit and watch the World Cup happen around them, because they are a very passionate rugby population."

Deans says the team will go down to Canterbury and will help with fundraising efforts.

Australia will play Italy in their first match at North Harbour Stadium on Sunday.

Warm welcome for England

In Dunedin, about 500 people cheered the England team through their capping ceremony at the Town Hall, which included Highland dancing and a Chinese dragon exhibition.

The team takes on Argentina in their first match of the tournament on Saturday at Otago Stadium.

Manager Martin Johnson told the crowd the squad is extremely grateful for the warm welcome.

"It took our breath away a little bit to come in here and see so many people. We're just looking even more forward to the game on Saturday night now."

Johnson says he has told his players the World Cup really starts now that they have arrived in their host city.

Sea of red for Tonga

Hundreds of supporters turned out to greet Tonga at their official welcome ceremony in South Auckland.

The crowd, including dozens of primary school children, lined the entrance to the Papakura Marae dressed in the Tongan colours of red and white and waving flags and banners.

The team, which arrived in New Zealand on Monday, was welcomed onto the marae where a powhiri was given.

Tonga plays its first game of the tournament against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Friday.