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Monday, March 22

Regions set to welcome Georgia and Russia for RWC 2011

Regions across New Zealand can start planning to host two more teams for Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011) after Georgia and Russia confirmed their positions for the Tournament.

Georgia claimed the Europe 1 position for RWC 2011 after defeating Russia 36-8 in a European Nations Cup match overnight. As the second ranked team, Russia qualifies in the Europe 2 spot.

This means Georgia will play their matches in Dunedin, Christchurch and Palmerston North and Russia plays in New Plymouth, Rotorua, Nelson and Christchurch.

“This is exciting news for these centres, because now they can start to plan exactly how they will roll out the welcome mat,” said Rugby New Zealand 2011 Ltd (RNZ 2011) CEO Martin Snedden.

As Europe 1, Georgia will compete in Pool B against Argentina, England, Scotland and the Play-off Winner, while the Russians will enter Pool C against Australia, Ireland, Italy and the USA.

“I am especially looking forward to the historic clash between Russia and the USA in New Plymouth given the long history of intense sporting rivalry between these two great nations.” 

Both teams will also visit non-match centres. Georgia will be hosted in heartland Rugby country when they visit Masterton between matches while Russia will travel to Blenheim and Tauranga.

“We have been keen to ensure as many communities as possible get a first hand taste of the excitement of this Tournament and I am sure Georgia and Russia will be in for a treat, experiencing beautiful parts of the country and our Kiwi hospitality.”

The result was an historic achievement for Russia as they look forward to their first berth at a Rugby World Cup.  For Georgia, 2011 will be their third Rugby World Cup appearance.

During the 2010 European Nations Cup, both teams successfully held off strong challenges from previous qualifiers Romania and Portugal to secure the qualifications spots early in the competition. The match between Georgia and Russia was a battle to determine which team would fill the coveted Europe 1 position.
Europe 1: Georgia
Wed Sept 14
Scotland
Dunedin
Carisbrook/Otago Stadium
Sun Sept 18
England
Christchurch
Stadium Christchurch
Wed Sept 28
Play-off Winner
Palmerston North
Arena Manawatu
Sun Oct 2
Argentina
Palmerston North
Arena Manawatu

Europe 2: Russia
Thurs Sept 15
USA
New Plymouth
Stadium Taranaki
Tues Sept 20
Italy
Nelson
Trafalgar Park
Sun Sept 25
Ireland
Rotorua
Rotorua International Stadium
Sat Oct 1
Australia
Christchurch
Stadium Christchurch
Christchurch is the only city to host both teams and Christchurch mayor Bob Parker was thrilled with the news. "We are delighted that both Russia and Georgia who have qualified for RWC 2011 will be hosted in our city during next's year's event," said Mr Parker.

"We have a large community either from Russia or Russian speaking in our city and representatives of that community have assured me that they will be giving plenty of support to their teams. As a city we are also very excited to welcome both teams for this important event."
 
Mr Parker says a touring party of 43 Russian players is at present in Christchurch receiving specialist training with the Canterbury Rugby Football's International High Performance Unit and playing local teams. 
 
"I know just how excited the local community is to have them here, so I can imagine that excitement will be magnified next year. It is wonderful news and highlights the diversity of visitors we can expect for next year," he said.

There are just two more spots to be contested for RWC 2011. Five teams will fight for the Asia 1 position in the 2010 Asian Five Nations from April to May. The third placed European team (to be decided next week) will also move into the Play-off Final against Uruguay, Tunisia and the runner-up Asian team to discover the Play-off winner and the final qualifier for RWC 2011. This winner be known in November.