From a spectacular opening ceremony, packed stadia and fanzones, record broadcast and social media figures to superb action and emotional scenes in Kamaishi, it has been a spectacular start to Rugby World Cup 2019.
The opening week of Asia’s first Rugby World Cup delivered unforgettable moments as ‘rugby mania’ has gripped Japan – never has a host nation been so engaged.
On the field, Japan 2019 is the first Rugby World Cup opening week where match scores have been below 50 points, while Uruguay caused the rankings upset of the week in defeating Fiji on a symbolic and special day in Kamaishi.
Spectacular opening ceremony, vibrant stadia and record fanzone numbers
Japan seized its moment to shine on the global stage as a special opening ceremony attracted universal fan and media praise, wowing a sell-out Tokyo Stadium crowd with a blend of Japanese and rugby history.
Ticket sales across the tournament remain strong at almost 98 per cent, while stadia across the length and breadth of the host nation have delivered incredible atmospheres as locals and travelling fans have joined in celebration.
Another highlight of the tournament to date has been the official fanzones, which have been an attraction for fans and locals alike. Nearly 270,000 fans have attended across the 16 fanzones to date with 67,000 people alone attending on opening night, and the tournament is well on the way to breaking the fanzone record of one million set in 2015.
Record single-market rugby broadcast audience anticipated as Japan switches on to rugby
With rugby mania sweeping the nation, the opening ceremony and match attracted a peak live audience share on Japan’s NTV of 25.5 percent in prime time, a figure that is likely to be confirmed as the biggest ever national audience figure for rugby when the broadcasters publish their data next week. Combining NTV, JSPORT and NHK’s live audience, it is likely to be the most-viewed live event of 2019 in Japan.
Meanwhile, UK broadcaster ITV’s coverage of the opening match attracted an audience share of 20 per cent and peaked at one million during its breakfast programming, while England’s opening match against Tonga (11:15 UK time on Sunday) peaked at 4.7 million with Sunday’s earlier encounter between Ireland and Scotland peaking at 3.2 million.
In France, Les Bleus’ opening match against Argentina, which kicked off at 09:00 CEST on Saturday, peaked at 3.1 million.
Rugby goes viral globally on social media
The weekend also lit up social media with #RWC2019 the top global trend on opening night, more than 624.5 million views of the official Rugby World Cup GIFs on the Giphy channel, 16.5 million views of New Zealand’s first Haka and an average of 400,000 viewers of the Rugby World Cup Daily as rugby mania spreads across the globe.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “This is Japan’s moment to shine, and it is certainly doing that. From a spectacular opening ceremony, excellent rugby, vibrant fanzones and strong broadcast audiences, it has certainly been some start.”
Japan Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Committee CEO Akira Shimazu added: “We are absolutely delighted with how the tournament’s opening week has played out. We have built tremendous momentum and excitement throughout the country and the stage is set for a truly incredible Rugby World Cup here in Japan.”
Official merchandise a hit with fans
The official licensing programme has also exceeded all expectations as fans in Japan rush to secure official replica jerseys, replica match balls and a whole host of nation-specific merchandise in-store and online. IMG Licensing, in partnership with Legends, has reported total sales that already exceed the record total number of sales achieved during the first week of Rugby World Cup 2015.
Record-breaking fan generosity changing lives through rugby
Thanks to the generosity of fans and commercial partners, a record-breaking £2 million has been pledged to the ChildFund Pass It Back programme.
Funds raised through opt-in donations when purchasing tickets have increased by an impressive 50 per cent compared to RWC 2015 as fans demonstrate their solidarity with the values and objectives of the important rugby for development initiative. The pledge figure also includes donations from online shoppers at the official Rugby World Cup 2019 online shop and support provided by the Rugby World Cup worldwide partners and individual donors around the globe.
The remaining tickets can be purchased by visiting the official ticketing website at www.tickets.rugbyworldcup.com.