TOKYO (Reuters) – Over 50 million people watched Japan’s Rugby World Cup win over Scotland last weekend on domestic television, World Rugby said on Saturday.
The governing body said 54.8 million people tuned in for the match, which was aired on Nippon Television, and saw Japan reach the quarter-finals for the very first time with a 28-21 victory.
The viewership figures were even higher than the audience of the final of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was also held in Japan.
The level of interest in the World Cup has soared as Japan have progressed through the tournament, winning every match in their pool, including victories over tier-one nations Scotland and Ireland.
About 26 million people tuned in to watch the opener against Russia – which was then the most watched rugby match ever in Japan – and each contest has seen more people tune in on television to catch the action.
World Rugby were delighted that their gamble to take the tournament outside of the sport’s traditional heartlands has paid off.
“These figures reflect the power of sport to unite a nation, the awakening of Japan to rugby and how the heroics of the Brave Blossoms have captured hearts and minds around the world,” World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
The record is expected to be reset again when Japan take on South Africa in Tokyo in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)