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Counting the success of World Cup 2017

World Rugby have revealed some interesting data showing how successful the 2017 World Cup was.

A 95% capacity crowd watched the final at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast

World Rugby have issued some interesting information on the 2017 World Cup which they say “raises the bar as women’s sport takes centre stage”.

“New broadcast records set, with France and UK leading the way”

We have already revealed this in on our Facebook and Twitter pages, but it bears repeating that the TV audiences for the World Cup were very impressive.

Accurate TV viewer information is remarkably hard to come by these days, but we do know that in France the viewer numbers grew steadily game on game, passing the 2014 peak with France's game against Ireland and reaching new record peak audience of between 3.2 and 3.4 million (World Rugby give the former, our contacts in France suggest the latter) on France 2 for the France v England semi-final. With many games also shown on French Eurosport the number actually watching would have been even higher.

2.65 million tuned in to ITV in the UK for the final, which is pretty impressive, made even more so by the fact that the men’s final on the same channel in 2015 got only just over 6 million. So that month-long competition with 20 years of high profile tradition, and a huge promotional budget, for which ITV reportedly paid £60m for the rights to show, attracted an audience for its showpiece final that wasn’t much more than twice the size reached by the women’s final (for which ITV probably paid loose change, if anything at all).

Even hidden away on ITV4 – not the most mainstream of channels – England’s semi-final against France attracted over 650,000 viewers, making it the highest audience for a digital channel that evening, bigger than any of the Sky Sports channels, for example.

With strong broadcast figures also recorded in the USA and Ireland (where the audience share for some games touched 20%) there must surely be some TV executives showing some real interest in the game.

“Record attendance for a Women’s Rugby World Cup”

Now this is a fascinating claim, which World Rugby - for the first time – backs up with numbers.

“A record total attendance of 45,412” attended all matches with “the pool stages in Dublin sold out with 17,516 attending matches” and “the final attracting 17,115 spectators”.

Many will be surprised by this claim, and the final indeed was not a record on its own – but it never could be as the capacity of Kingspan is less than the 20,000 who were reported to have bought tickets for the final day of France 2014. However, the ground was 95% full.

However, although we do not have accurate data for previous World Cups, the pool attendance (or more accurately ticket sales) reported for Dublin is significantly more than for Marcoussis in 2014, where the maximum crowd would have been more than about 4000-5000 per day, and approaching twice that of Guildford in 2010, where the capacity was under 3000. In addition far more people attended the classification playoffs in Belfast that they did at Guildford or Marcoussis.

So even though the semi-final crowds were smaller than in 2014, it is not unreasonable to find that the total ticket sales must have been larger.

"Record social and digital media engagement inspiring new rugby fans"

World Rugby reports “45 million views across official tournament platforms, the best-performing World Rugby event of the year and the biggest since Rugby World Cup 2015”. And, yes, that does seem to include the 2016 Olympics.

Even more impressive is that 73 per cent of social media engagement was under 24, with women only narrowly outnumbering men by 53 to 47 – so the idea that women are the only audience for women’s sport seems blown out of the water.

Also 600,000 unique users visited www.rwcwomens.com over from 223 different territories, generating four times as many page views as WRWC 2014.

And the levels of interest also briefly crashed this site!

"Ball-in-play time 10 per cent more than in the men’s game"

A final statistic that answers the question “why were games in this World Cup so entertaining”.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont has hailed Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 as a “special and ground-breaking” event as New Zealand lifted the coveted trophy after a pulsating final, bringing down the curtain on a tournament that broke records on and off the field.

Beaumont said: “This tournament will be remembered as a very special and ground-breaking rugby event. It raised the bar. Compelling action, huge fan interaction and a strong family feel characterised an event that captured hearts and minds beyond the traditional rugby community.

“The level of global coverage and excitement is testament to the performances of the world’s top teams and reflects the surge in interest around the world. Off the field, our friends from the IRFU did an exceptional job at hosting the event, while the volunteers and fans were simply brilliant.

“But most of all, it is the teams who deserve the praise. There is no doubt that they have inspired a new generation of girls and boys to get into rugby and while only one team can be crowned champions, all the teams were fantastic on and off the field – rugby has certainly been the winner.”

In November, the World Rugby Council will consider the 2017-25 women’s rugby plan, an action plan to build a stronger, sustainable game from the bottom up and throughout a highly collaborative process, unions and players alike are welcoming the advances.

“We are determined to ensure that the future of women’s 15s competition is bright, exciting and sustainable on and off the field,” Beaumont added. That is why the women’s plan consultation process is so important. It reflects the rugby family’s commitment, not just to the pinnacle event, but to an accessible, growing, competitive and commercially strong sport.”