A record 25 million people in Japan watched their national team beat Samoa in the World Cup amidst mounting rugby fever, the global governing body said Monday.
Twenty percent of the entire Japanese population tuned in to Saturday’s match which the Brave Blossoms won 26-5 to record their second victory at the tournament, World Rugby said.
The new record television audience for a rugby match beat the 20.7 million in France that saw England win an epic World Cup semi final in Paris against the home country 14-9.
“This is a significant result for the game in Japan,” said World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper.
“It shows that the general population there appreciate the sport and the amazing performances of their national team over the past few weeks
Japan will stage the World Cup in 2019 as the world body seeks ways to boost the sport’s global profile.
Japan play their final Pool B game against the United States in Gloucester on Sunday and could still qualify for the quarter finals if leaders South Africa and Scotland slip up in their games.
Coach Eddie Jones says Japan should be named “team of the tournament” if they get another win. The Samoa victory followed a stunning 34-32 triumph over South Africa.
Japan’s players are getting better — partly because they watch more rugby on their iPads than other squads, according to forwards coach Steve Borthwick.
“Each week we’re going up against teams that are much taller than us, bigger than us,” said Borthwick.
“Each time we’ve had to overcome that and they’ve done really well.
“Their work rate is outstanding and they’ve been tremendously physical,” added the 35-year-old of the Japanese team preparing to play the United States on Sunday.
“One thing is clear: people think our drive is a threat now. They’re having to commit a lot of players to stop it.”
He said the Japan squad had come to England determined to show the country both deserves respect and to host the 2019 World Cup.
“What we set out to do is build a rugby team that Japan can be proud of,” said Borthwick, who was considered unlucky not to be selected for the 2003 World Cup winning squad.
“Their history of the World Cup has not been good – it’s been terrible (they had won only one match prior to the present edition back in 1991 against Zimbabwe).
“The players have taken it upon themselves to inspire the next generation of players.
“In my experience, compared to players elsewhere like England, the Japan players do a lot more video work. The players have their iPads and computers and they’re looking at footage all the time. It’s a great credit to the players.” – Agence France-Presse