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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 06:54 GMT
New Zealand loses Cup status
NZRFU chief ececutive David Rutherford and chairman Murray McCaw
McCaw (r) refused to compromise on stadium advertising
Australia has been asked to draw up plans to host the 2003 Rugby World Cup on its own after withdrawing its invitation to New Zealand to co-host the tournament.

The Australian Rugby Union made the decision to go it alone on Friday as it refused to yield to a number of demands from its New Zealand counterpart.

"I am confident from a logistical, infrastructure and financial perspective we can put together a compelling proposal," said ARU chief executive John O'Neill.

We are not prepared to commit to what we know we can't deliver
NZRFU chairman Murray McCaw
The International Rugby Board, which is responsible for the Rugby World Cup, has given Australia 21 days to make new arrangements.

"This action has reluctantly been forced on to us by the NZRFU's failure to conform to or to accept its obligations," said IRB communications manager Chris Rea.

"The proximity of the tournament leaves us no alternative but to take the necessary steps to move forward as quickly as possible."

The NZRFU had until 0400 GMT to sign a sub host agreement with Australia.

It did return the documents, but included controversial alterations in relation to stadium advertising, which have proved unacceptable to the IRB.

As a result the World Cup draw, which was due to take place in Sydney next week, has been cancelled.

Very disappointing

At the heart of the dispute was the NZRFU's plan to go ahead with its national provincial championship, a big revenue earner which overlaps with the World Cup's early stages.

RWC organisers had suggested a compromise which would allow the NPC semi-finals and finals to be played during the World Cup.

RWC wanted New Zealand venues to be free of local advertising signage and corporate boxes, but the NZRFU had said it would not jeopardise its domestic sponsors.

"The terms and conditions of the host union agreement were well known to New Zealand for several months, and as recently as November last year when the ARU signed the agreement," added O'Neill.

Jonah Lomu leads the New Zealand haka
New Zealand were due to host 23 matches
"Those same terms and conditions are mirrored in the sub host union agreement, so there is no suggestion of anything new here.

"The ARU accepted those terms and conditions in November and it is very disappointing that New Zealand has failed to move forward to accept the invitation to jointly host this great world event."

New Zealand had been due to stage 23 of the 48 matches.

But NZRFU chairman Murray McCaw said: "We are not prepared to commit to what we know we can't deliver.

"RWCL continues to demand that we agree to 100% clean venues. They know we cannot deliver this.

"The NZRFU is not prepared to mortgage New Zealand rugby's future to the whim of the RWCL."

BBC Sport's Alastair Hignall
"New Zealand were unhappy about playing second fiddle to Australia"
Australian Rugby Union director John O'Neill
"I'd be surprised if New Zealand expected their changes to be accepted"
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