World Rugby’s minnows show the huge leaps in fandom

World Rugby minnows leap

24.09.15, London – Repucom, the trusted advisor in sports and entertainment intelligence has released a host of new data which shows the huge growth of the Rugby World Cup fan base across the sport’s less dominant competing nations.

The data released today compares the interest levels of fans prior to the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups from a selection of countries with teams currently outside of World Rugby’s Top 10 rankings.

Of the 16 markets tested, the top five which show the greatest growth in the percentage of people who are interested in the Rugby World Cup between the two tournaments are 14th ranked, Italy (11 percentage point growth), 21st ranked, Spain (six percentage point growth), 72nd ranked, Thailand (five percentage point growth), 74th ranked, India (four percentage point growth) and 57th ranked, Malaysia (four percentage point growth).

Whilst interest levels in rugby’s better established markets remains expectedly and comparatively high, it is markets such as Japan, Canada, the US and Mexico which may prove to be interesting reading amongst the sport’s marketing and commercial strategists.

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Mike Wragg, Global head of Market Research, Repucom, said: “Growing the fan base of a sport remains central to its success. The Rugby World Cup has done a huge amount over the last decade or so to bring the sport to a truly global scale.

“Since 2003, we’ve seen huge leaps forward in the commercialisation of the sport and in turn the accessibility of the game itself. Now markets as diverse as Spain, India and Thailand are beginning to really engage with the tournament which will be music to the ears of organisers and also shows the importance of the tournament in promoting rugby to the world.

“With the 2015 Rugby World Cup well and truly underway, it has been the underdogs which have brought the tournament to life so far. Japan’s win over South Africa on the tournament’s opening weekend shone a spotlight on the game’s emerging teams and potentially, regions and markets for commercial growth of rugby itself. Through this new data, we can see that trend actually take shape.”

Italy is perhaps one of the best known rugby nations to feature in this new research, having played annually in the Six Nations, consecutively since 2000. It is the market however which shows the biggest jump the percentage of population who say they are interested in the Rugby World Cup, growing from 7% prior to the 2011 tournament, to 18% today.

Other countries which represent key growth markets due to the increase in percentage of domestic World Cup fans include Malaysia (17%), Thailand (15%), the US (12%) and Spain (12%).

Top 5 markets in terms of the biggest growth in percentage of domestic population prior to the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups who are fans of the tournament


2011: 1%
2015: 5% (+4%)



2011: 7%
2015: 18% (+11%)



2011: 13%
2015: 17% (+4%)



2011: 6%
2015: 12% (+6%)



2011: 10%
2015: 15% (+5%)