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2023 Rugby World Cup set for record international visitors and attendance

Tournament forecast to generate €457m for World Rugby.

31 May 2023 Ed Dixon

Getty Images

  • More than 600k international visitors expected to visit host nation France
  • RWC 2023 is fastest-selling edition ever, with almost 2.5m tickets sold

With 100 days to go until the 2023 Rugby World Cup, organisers are expecting record international visitors and attendance for the tournament, an event which is projected to generate €457 million (US$488 million) for World Rugby to reinvest back into the sport.

The men’s rugby union showpiece, which is being hosted by France, gets underway on 8th September and World Rugby is anticipating more than 600,000 international visitors for the event. All available tickets were also sold a year ahead of kick off and the tournament is set to break the Rugby World Cup attendance record set in 2015.

“More than 2.5 million tickets [have been] sold, which is the capacity of the tournament,” Michel Poussau, World Rugby’s chief of events and Rugby World Cup 2023 executive director, told SportsPro.

“Ticket holders are coming in from outside of France. 60 per cent of the 600,000 [international visitors] are from the UK, then we have Australia, which is a very strong market, and the Netherlands, where there is a lot of interest. We have got New Zealand where have a lot of ticket holders as well.”

World Rugby has revealed that 72 per cent of ticket holders will attend with family, and 45 per cent with friends. Those stats, according to Poussau, reflect the aim of rugby union’s global governing body to make this Rugby World Cup as welcoming and inclusive as possible.

“To be true to your statement, you have to make sure tickets are accessible,” he said. “We have a tournament for which the average price for the ticket will be the lowest compared to 2019 and 2015. The average price for the group phase is €97, which is far lower than what it was for Japan [in 2019].”

Poussau did not disclose the cost of hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup – for context, USA Rugby projects staging the 2031 and 2033 editions will cost approximately US$500 million – but, given France’s existing rugby infrastructure and previous hosting experience, the outlay will “be at the right level”.

Legacy money from the tournament is set to be around €40 million (US$42.7 million), according to Poussau. He also forecasts about €457 million (US$488 million) to be generated by the event for World Rugby, which will be used to support the body’s various initiatives, including programmes to get people playing the game all over the world.

On the broadcast front, Poussau said he was “optimistic” that viewership for the 2023 Rugby World Cup would eclipse the 857 million people who tuned in to the 2019 edition in Japan, which marked a 26 per cent increase on the 2015 tournament held in England.

The 2023 event will mark the second time France has hosted the men’s Rugby World Cup, having done so in 2007 and 1991, when it co-hosted with England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Despite World Rugby opting for a return to a more traditional market, Poussau cited the appetite from locals and international visitors as key indicators for ensuring 2023 will leave a lasting legacy.

“What we want is a very strong and positive impact for rugby overall,” he said. “We want fans to leave the venues, the fan zone or the country with amazing memories of this rugby celebration, of friendship, of camaraderie, enjoying what our country has to offer.”

He added: “From a tournament and legacy perspective, we [want a] positive impact in terms of accessibility, inclusivity and making sure we are progressive.

“I don’t think anyone can predict actually who will be holding the Webb Ellis Cup on 28th October. We’ve got newcomers to the World Cup with Chile and we’ve got Portugal, which is an amazing story, coming back to France again after 2007.

“This will be very competitive. Overall, it’s amazing actually to follow the game because it’s very hard to predict who will win that tournament.”

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