14 Mar 2009

Late start for World Cup finals said to have its pluses

6:48 am on 14 March 2009

The All Blacks will kick off their bid for a second Rugby World Cup when they play Tonga in the opening match of the 2011 tournament in Auckland on September the ninth.

The grudge match against France, who eliminated the All Blacks in the quarterfinals to years ago in Cardiff, will also be played in Auckland a fortnight later.

South Africa will begin their World Cup defence against Wales in Wellington, while England play 2007 semi-finalists Argentina in Christchurch.

Two-time champions Australia start their campaign against Italy in Christchurch, which will no doubt be seen as a a homecoming for Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.

France, Ireland and Scotland also play on the first weekend although their opening opponents are yet to be decided.

Meanwhile Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden says the decision to start the World Cup semi-finals and final at 9 o'clock at night recognises the need to maximise coverage in the northern hemisphere.

Night Tests in New Zealand usually start at 7.35pm and earlier this year Snedden said 8.30pm could be could be a possibility to suit European broadcasters.

Although he wasn't keen on a later start then, he says it will mean an even bigger audience and greater exposure for New Zealand now.

The semi-finals are in Auckland on the 15th and 16th of October and the final's there on Sunday the 23rd.

The Bronze final and the quarter-finals will be played at 8.30pm.