World Rugby has unveiled its post-Rugby World Cup figures, including record-breaking attendance and fan engagement figures.
The first Rugby World Cup in Asia saw world rugby’s governing body claim an average of 99.3% attendance across each of the games, with a record 1.13m people visiting the official fanzones and over 400,000 fans travelling to Japan to watch the event or soak up the atmosphere.
The organisation has also claimed 1.7bn digital video views as well as the biggest ever domestic television audience for a rugby match, as 54.8m people in Japan tuned in to watch their country’s victory over Scotland to qualify for the quarter-finals.
In related news, World Rugby has announced it will return to a dual award strategy for the hosting rights to the 2027 and 2031 World Cups, with a similar approach of pairing established and emerging rugby nations likely to be encouraged.
Rugby union’s world governing body confirmed that the strategy has been adopted at its end of tournament press conference for Japan’s 2019 World Cup.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Council has approved the implementation of a dual host selection process for 2027 and 2031. It will enable us to choose an optimal combination of hosts similar to what we achieved when awarding 2015 and this year’s tournaments at the same time.”
England and Japan were awarded hosting rights to the 2015 and 2019 World Cups back in July 2009, but World Rugby opted to move away from this strategy in what was a controversial process to decide the host of the 2023 tournament.
In November 2017, France landed the rights to the 2023 World Cup, against a recommendation made by the Rugby World Cup Limited Board the previous month. The decision attracted widespread criticism.
South Africa appeared set to land the 2023 World Cup after the RWCL Board unanimously recommended the country’s bid over that of proposals from France and Ireland. The process moved to a vote by the World Rugby Council, which comprised a total of 39 votes, with a simple majority required to confirm South Africa as host.
The first round of voting saw France gain 18 votes, to 13 for South Africa and eight for Ireland. The second round saw France clinch the World Cup with 24 votes to South Africa’s 15. In the wake of the controversy caused by the decision, Beaumont had said plans were being discussed to overhaul the bidding process as the governing body sought to demonstrate that it won’t simply “chase the cash” when assigning future hosting rights.
Potential hosts for both the 2027 and 2031 World Cups have already stepped forward, with Australia, Argentina and Russia among the potential candidates for the former, and the United States also potentially in the mix for either event.
World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “(Japan) have been magnificent and warm hosts. We really hope other unions find the courage now to throw their hat into the ring to host a Rugby World Cup, perhaps as an emerging nation. I hope that it also gives courage to World Rugby to be bold in decisions as they were in 2009 when they chose Japan.”
Beaumont added: “It is correct and right that we look at new areas. When we came to Japan, nobody would have thought that it would have been the outstanding success that it has. This gives us the opportunity to look at South America, North America, Canada and certainly that is part of our long-term planning.”
The closing press conference for Japan 2019 also discussed the prospect of potential expansion for the tournament from 20 to 24 teams. “We are looking at a number of formats,” Alan Gilpin, World Cup Chief Operating Officer, said. “We would look at how to make the next four (teams) competitive and we have high performance programmes with a number of unions. This has been the fairest World Cup in terms of rest periods for all teams. This is something else we are looking at going forward, but we don’t want to exceed the six-week period the tournament is staged over, because it is a big window and to go beyond would be challenging.”