All Blacks and Tonga to kick off World Cup

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WELLINGTON, March 12 – The All Blacks will take on the South Pacific island nation of Tonga in the opening match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, organisers said Thursday.

ALL_BLACKSNew Zealand will be hosting the event for the first time since the first global competition in 1987, the only time the All Blacks have won the trophy.

The opening match in Auckland on September 9, 2011 will kick off the six-week tournament at 13 venues around New Zealand, culminating in the final in Auckland on October 23.

Reigning world champions and two-time winners South Africa will open their title defence against Wales in Wellington on Sunday, September 11, said Rugby New Zealand chief executive Martin Snedden.

Beaten 2007 finalists and 2003 champions England will meet Argentina in Christchurch a day earlier, Snedden announced.

Two-time champions Australia will open their campaign against Italy in Christchurch while France play the top Asian qualifier, likely to be Japan, in Auckland.

Ireland will meet the second qualifier from the Americas in New Plymouth and Scotland will take on another qualifier in the southern city of Invercargill.

Organisers earlier announced both semi-finals and the final will be played at Eden Park in Auckland.

They confirmed Thursday that Christchurch would host the October 8 and 9 quarter-finals featuring the top two teams in pool A — including the All Blacks, France and Tonga — and pool B, which features Argentina, England and Scotland.

The quarter-finals featuring the winners and runners-up from pool C — including Australia, Ireland and Italy — and Pool D, which features South Africa, Wales and Fiji, will be played in Wellington the same weekend.

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