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A plot to poach the Wellington Sevens rugby tournament for Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium is being hatched in the deep South.
The annual NZI Sevens event - which attracts 16 teams, 50,000 visitors and millions of dollars of spending - was on a list of events to be targeted by Dunedin Venues Management Ltd for the city's new stadium.
Wellington's contract to host the event expires in 2012, and Wellington Rugby Football Union officials were anticipating competition from other centres hoping to lure the tournament away.
Asked yesterday if he was planning a bid, DVML chief executive David Davies said: "You can be reassured we will be."
"[We] have been talking about a list of events we wish to target, and clearly Sevens is one of them."
The bid would be built around a week of activities in Dunedin, either side of the two-day rugby festival, he said.
A separate bid was also planned for the annual Pub Charity NZ Rugby Sevens tournament, at present based in Queenstown, he confirmed.
Planning for both bids was at an early stage, but Mr Davies said he would talk to tourism authorities in Dunedin and Queenstown "as soon as we can" about multi-agency bids, which were expected later this year.
A pre-planned trip to Wellington later this month to discuss the Rugby World Cup 2011 could also serve as a springboard for talks on the bids, he said.
"We recognise it's going to need a multi-agency effort to bring it off, but I think it would have a significant impact down here."
Mr Davies' comments raised eyebrows in Wellington and Queenstown yesterday.
NZI Sevens general manager Steve Walters, of the Wellington Rugby Football Union (WRFU), said Dunedin would be "crazy not to consider" a bid involving the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
However, Mr Walters - who lived in Dunedin for five years - believed the city's chances of stealing the event were "very slim".
"There's always a chance, but realistically a big part of this tournament is from people coming from all round the country.
"To experience that same result down in Dunedin I think would be a very tall order," Mr Walters said.
He planned to help prepare a new bid to keep the tournament in Wellington once any new requirements for the tournament beyond 2012 were clarified by the International Rugby Board (IRB).
Sevens with Altitude chairman Clark Frew, of Queenstown, said his organisation was contracted by the NZRU to host the national Sevens tournament until 2012, with an option to renew for a further two years.
Asked if he planned to exercise the right of renewal, allowing the event to celebrate its 10th year in the resort, Mr Frew said: "Absolutely."