World Cup organisers hail crazy, ‘historic’ crowd for Uruguay versus Namibia
According to the organisers Rugby World Cup 2023 continues to set new attendance and viewership records as the Pool stage comes to a close this weekend.
Rugby World Cup organisers said the near-50,000 crowd that turned up for last week’s Uruguay vs Namibia match showed how much France had embraced the tournament, which continues to set domestic records for viewing figures.
An official crowd of 49,332, the vast majority of them French neutrals, watched last Wednesday’s Pool A “Clash of the Minnows” in Lyon and were treated to a hugely entertaining 36-24 win for the South Americans.
“Something that grabbed my attention was the 49,332 spectators who watched the Uruguay v Namibia match, not on a weekend, and I think we need to underscore this,” Jacques Rivoal, president of France 2023, told reporters on Wednesday.
“We have never had such a crowd for a match between emerging nations in a World Cup. For comparison, it is four times larger than the Georgia v Namibia match in the 2015 World Cup and the same as we saw for the quarterfinals four years ago.
The highest audience last weekend was the game in Lyon between New Zealand and Italy with 5.3 million viewers. That is 30% more than the Champions League final in 2023.
“So it’s truly a historic record for rugby that we can really be proud of.”
Rivoal said ticket sales and TV audiences in France were “truly exceptional” and matched their pre-tournament ambitions.
Michel Poussau, RWC 2023 tournament director, said they were seeing a younger and more diverse audience engagement, which was great for the growth of the game.
“In France we have reached an audience of more than 128 million, which is already as much as the entirety of Rugby World Cup 2015 in England and more than for 2019 in Japan – still with only 32 games played,” he said.
“The highest audience last weekend was the game in Lyon between New Zealand and Italy with 5.3 million viewers. That is 30% more than the Champions League final in 2023.”
More than 1.5 million people have been in the stadiums and close to a million have visited the rugby villages.
As the tournament heads into the final round of Pool matches this weekend, Rivoal congratulated those not progressing who he said can leave with their heads held high.
“Some have already left France such as Namibia, who scored the quickest try in this World Cup,” he said. “I think Chile in their first participation really stuck in people’s minds both on and off the field. We saw magnificent images of the Chilean players joining the social and daily life of their base camp.
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“And a mention of course for Portugal, who impressed with their audacious rugby and made us think of the French flair of a few years ago and maybe a Barbarians spirit and who still have a game to play this weekend against Fiji.
“I was also very much struck by the South African and Tongan players who celebrated together after their game. It was a beautiful image of opponents uniting.”
Organisers also highlighted the 18-22 October International Wheelchair Rugby Cup, apparently not allowed to use the RWC name due to rights issues.
France are the defending champions and it is the first time the eight-team event has been held alongside the World Cup.
Played indoors on a basketball court, the bruising sport formerly called “Murderball” can be great entertainment and organisers hope that up to 30,000 spectators cumulatively will watch the matches in Paris. Reuters/DM