By Charles Starmer-Smith
Published: 5:18PM GMT 01 Mar 2010
The 2011 Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 9 Photo: CORBIS
Some 25,000 rugby supporters from Britain and Ireland are expected to defy the economic downturn and head to New Zealand for the matches.
The tournament – which begins on September 9 when the All Blacks face their Pacific Island neighbours, Tonga – is being held across 13 different venues, while the teams will be hosted in 23 different towns, from Whangarei at the top of North Island to Invercargill at the bottom of South Island.
“The way in which the tournament is structured presents the perfect opportunity for fans to travel the length and breadth of New Zealand in between matches and really make the most of their visit,” said Gregg Anderson, Europe’s regional manager for Tourism New Zealand. “Visitors from the UK and Ireland are expected to outnumber fans from all other nations.”
Preparations for the tournament are on schedule with work on Auckland’s Eden Park stadium, which is being upgraded to a capacity of 60,000, set to be completed by October. The stadium’s expansion has helped ease initial concerns that New Zealand does not possess the necessary seating capacity for a World Cup Final.
“The World Cup will take over New Zealand for the whole year building up to the tournament as well as during the six weeks it takes place,” said Martin Johnson, the manager of the England team, who captained England to its only World Cup triumph in Sydney in 2003. “It’s one of the biggest sporting occasions in the world and I meet so many people who have been to a Rugby World Cup – they say it’s one of the best trips they’ve ever done in their lives.”
England Rugby Travel (0844 788 5000; www.englandrugbytravel.com) is the first official travel agent to release its packages, which range from just a single match ticket and one night’s accommodation to a seven-week motor home touring holiday in New Zealand with tickets to all England’s pool matches, semi-finals and the final at Eden Park (see below).
The home nations will play their pool games in destinations ranging from Dunedin and New Plymouth to Rotorua and Hamilton. The quarter-finals will be played in Wellington and Christchurch and the semi-finals and final in Auckland. Individual match tickets will go on sale in April via the official tournament website www.rugbyworldcup.com, which also has a full list of venues.
Pick of the packages
All packages below are available through England Rugby Travel (0844 788 5000; www.englandrugbytravel.com)
Those looking to cut costs can opt for the Explorer, which allows people to book flights and match tickets, as well as rent a motorhome or even travel independently. Prices start from £1,849 per person including return flights to New Zealand and tickets to England’s last two pool matches.
The opening weekends
This 12-night package offers tickets to the opening ceremony and the first match between New Zealand and Tonga in Auckland, two of England’s group games in Christchurch, as well as a stay in Queenstown – £4,799. Price includes all hotel stays (b&b basis), return flight, all internal flights and transfers, services of a tour leader and match tickets.
This 12-night package offers tickets to both semi-finals and the final, as well as a stay in Queenstown – £6,999 per person. Price includes all hotel stays (b&b basis), return flight, all internal flights and transfers, services of a tour leader and match tickets.
The big one
The 27-night trip that takes in England’s final pool game against Scotland plus two quarter-finals, both semi-finals and the final – £10,499. Price includes hotel stays (b&b basis) in Auckland, Bay of Islands, Christchurch, Queenstown and Rotorua, return flight, all internal flights and transfers, the services of a tour leader and match tickets.
* Gullivers Sports Travel (01684 293175; www.gulliverstravel.co.uk) and Thomas Cook Sport (0870 752 0924; www.thomascooksport.com) will also be providing official packages to the tournaments over the coming months. For further information about New Zealand and the Rugby World Cup see www.newzealand.com/travel