25 Oct 2015

Fans warned to 'keep heads in the game'

5:32 am on 25 October 2015

Police have urged rugby fans to behave responsibly, as bars around the country begin filling up for the All Blacks World Cup semi-final this morning.

Tense fans at The Fox sports bar in Auckland

Tense fans at The Fox sports bar in Auckland Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Police were expecting many fans to watch the match after a Saturday night out and feared some may be tempted by the long weekend to drink more alcohol than usual.

The match between the All Blacks and Springboks kicks off at 4am New Zealand time, which was the earliest All Blacks match of the tournament, and the day before the public holiday.

Bars around the country have been filling up over the last hour.

Wellington bar JJ Murphy's said that it was getting busier, mainly with early risers drinking coffee and tea.

Another bar in the city centre, the Welsh Dragon, was expecting a late flurry of punters coming in to watch the game, although it said most of its regulars were from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and now had little interest in the rest of the Cup.

National manager for road policing Superintendent Steve Greally said that may prompt some to have a big night out on Saturday before watching the game.

But he warned there would be a strong police presence on the roads and around bars, and motorists who drove drunk should expect to be caught.

"The potential for people to consume a lot of alcohol is actually of concern."

"What we really need for people to do is have a plan for getting home and you're not thinking about drinking and driving," he said.

The risk of having a serious or fatal crash was 14 percent higher over Labour Weekend.

Mr Greally said he was particularly mindful that Rugby World Cup semi-finals coupled with increased alcohol and fatigue could increase that risk.

"With many of the games being played in the early hours of the morning New Zealand time, this could lead to drivers making poor decisions around speed, drink driving and fatigue."

Police would be enforcing a 4 km/h speed threshold over the official weekend holiday period, which starts from 4pm on Friday October 23, until 6am Tuesday October 27.

"This means that anyone caught exceeding speed limits by more than 4km/h should expect to be ticketed," Mr Greally said.

"We'll also be carrying out random alcohol checkpoints over the weekend and will be breath-testing anyone stopped, anywhere, at any time."

All Black lock Brodie Retallick scores the first try of the match during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final against France in Cardiff.

All Black lock Brodie Retallick scores the first try of the match during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final against France in Cardiff. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said while some punters may be planning a big night out on Saturday and drinking into Sunday morning, bars would not serve anyone who was intoxicated.

"If someone is still going hard at 4 o'clock they're likely to be in a position not to be served, so they won't be allowed in, or be excluded."

"So if people are intending to party right through they need to pace themselves pretty well," he said.

About 300 bars around the country had applied for special licenses to open during Rugby World Cup games.

Mr Robertson expected most people watching the match at bars will have got up early especially and be more in the market for coffee and breakfast, than alcoholic drinks.

There were 78 reported injury crashes during the 2014 Labour Weekend, resulting in three deaths, 21 serious injuries and 81 minor injuries.

The second semi-final, between Australia and Argentina, takes place tomorrow morning.

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