The USA Eagles rugby team will attend an emotional church service marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks just hours before their opening World Cup game against Ireland.
Sunday's service will be one of the first in the world to be held commemorating the anniversary of the attacks, due to New Zealand’s proximity to the international date line.
USA Eagles media manager Dallen Stanford confirmed the squad will attend a 10.00 am (10.00 pm Saturday GMT) service at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in New Plymouth, before their game kicks off at 6.00 pm.
The US embassy in New Zealand contacted the church's minister, the Reverend Kim Francis, three months ago to suggest a memorial service to offer people of all nationalities an opportunity to mark the occasion.
"This is not just a national event for the Americans, this is international. (Nearly) 3 000 were killed, 70 nations were involved, more than 300 firefighters killed. My son-in-law is a firefighter, so that makes it pretty real," said Francis.
He confirmed that David Huebner, the US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, and an as-yet unnamed honorary guest will speak at the service.
The US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band will perform at the ceremony, while New Plymouth firefighters will escort the US and New Zealand flags into the church and the congregation will observe a minute's silence.
USA coach Eddie O'Sullivan said he hoped his team will be able to deal with the emotions they will feel during the service, while maintaining their concentration for the match to follow shortly afterwards.
"Motivation isn't going to be an issue for these lads, they're always easy to fire up," the former Ireland coach said.
"It's going to be emotional, I think. For me, part of my job is to contain the emotion. If they get too emotional, they'll make mistakes, and if they make mistakes they'll pay a big price," added O'Sullivan.
The IRB has already announced that a minute's silence will be observed in the New Plymouth stadium before the match kicks off. IRB chief Bernard Lapasset also said that there would be special banners adorning the stadium.
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