Approximately 200 years ago, the world’s population was estimated at around 800 million people.
In 2019, 857 million people from across the globe witnessed the spectacle that was the Rugby World Cup, which was hosted in Japan, the first time for a country in Asia.
With the current population of Planet Earth standing at just under 7.8 billion (at the time of writing), that means around 11% of people from around the world got involved at some point with the showcase Rugby Union event. The figures set new standards for the sport, which has seen a rapid audience growth of 26% up on the previous tournament, in England 2015.
In the host nation, more than five times the amount of people watched this tournament compared to the last. This time around, a humongous total of 425 million people in Japan tuned into RWC 2019, just over half of the global television audience, figures unsurprisingly when taking into account how well the country has taken the sport to their hearts.
There were a total of 45 matches played across the six weeks of the tournament, with the conclusion being the final between England and South Africa on November 2, a spectacle in Yokohama which was comprehensively won by the Springboks for their third time lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy, hoisted by the impervious and impressive captain Siya Kolisi.
This was the most-watched Rugby World Cup final ever with an average live audience of 44.9 million fans watching South Africa's 32-12 victory, an 83% increase on the previous final (won by New Zealand at Twickenham). In the UK it was the most-watched sports event of the year and the second-most watched TV programme of the year behind the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “These exceptional broadcast figures reaffirm our belief that Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan will be remembered as one of the great, if not the greatest of all Rugby World Cups.
“It had everything - exceptional rugby on the field, a host nation team that exceeded all expectations, capturing hearts and minds, and the inspiring story of Siya Kolisi - all creating an incredible story that captured the imagination of people around the world in record numbers.
“Overall audience growth is just one part of the story. It is particularly pleasing for the future development of the sport that Rugby World Cup 2019 broadcast success was driven by younger people in emerging markets such as India, Germany and across Asia, while Japan is now a major broadcast market for rugby – generating a sustainable audience legacy for the sport.”
The next tournament - the tenth in the competition’s history - is scheduled to be held in France in 2023. Judging by these impressive numbers, it certainly has a lot to live up to.