IRB concerned about Christchurch quake


PARIS, February 22- The International Rugby Board (IRB) has set up a crisis unit to monitor the situation in the earthquake-hit New Zealand city of Christchurch which is due to host seven games during the World Cup later this year.

The president of the French Rugby Federation Pierre Camou said that he had been in touch with IRB chief Bernard Lapasset who had informed him that a unit had been set up and that there were fears there could be aftershocks.

"Before anything else, we must think about the well-being of the people down there," Camou said.

"They are in direct contact with the New Zealand federation and he (Lapasset) will keep us posted with developments. But for the moment there is no question of us talking about rugby.

"I do not think that the World Cup is in any danger. For the moment, the tremors are localised. I think that if it comes down to it New Zealand will have fallback positions in place.

"I have no news of the stadium itself and neither does the IRB as of this morning. But for the moment for us and for world rugby, what matters is helping anyone still trapped underneath the rubble."

The city of Christchurch on the south island is one the strongholds of rugby in the country and is down to host five group games and two quarter-finals in the World Cup during September and October.

The 45,000 capacity Jade Stadium is home to the Canterbury Crusaders Super 15 side.

Lapasset said that the IRB would send a message of support to the New Zealand people and to Prime Minister John Key and that the situation would be further discussed at a meeting later Tuesday and on Wednesday.

The 6.3-magnitude earthquake which struck at lunchtime on Tuesday killed at least 65 people and provoked widespread structural damage to buildings throughout the city.