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World Rugby vows to close the gap

SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont has hailed the pool stage of Rugby World Cup 2023 as showing “the best of friendship, France and rugby” and vowed to facilitate greater opportunity for performance unions to close the competition gap.

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Across 40 matches, 20 teams played in nine venues the length and breadth of France, captivating audiences and capturing hearts and minds as the country united behind the tournament.

On the field, history was made as Chile made their debut and Portugal claimed their first-ever victory, while Fiji qualified for their first quarterfinal in 16 years to set the tournament alight.

With a mantra of ‘rugby’s ultimate celebration of togetherness’, the world has engaged in-stadia, in rugby villages, in living rooms, cafés, bars and online in record numbers.

“France 2023 has captured the imagination and warmed hearts the length and breadth of this rugby-loving nation.” said Beaumont.

“With an average attendance of 47,000 across the nine beautiful stadiums, more than a million fans mixing in rugby villages and an unprecedented social footprint of almost one billion fans, this is shaping up to be the social Rugby World Cup.”

France’s final Pool A match against Italy drew an audience of 13 million on French broadcaster, peaking at 14.5 million, representing the second-biggest audience of the year for the broadcaster, just behind Les Bleus’ opening encounter against New Zealand.

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Significantly, the French rugby audiences are the sport’s biggest in the country since they last hosted the tournament in 2007.

Meanwhile, Beaumont reiterated his pledge to provide performance unions with greater certainty and opportunity to be more competitive on the world stage, stating that the sport was united in a vision to open the door to a new dawn.

“At this stage of the competition, we say goodbye to 12 teams,” Beaumont said.

“I want to assure everyone that the likes of Portugal. Samoa, Tonga, Uruguay, Chile and Georgia may be gone, but they are certainly not forgotten.

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“We must, and will, do everything we can to provide greater certainty and opportunity of regular high-level competition for these teams.

“They are central to our discussions on a reimagined international calendar that will benefit the many, not the few. This, in turn, will enable us to arrive at World Cup 2031 in USA anticipating a genuinely competitive and unpredictable World Cup which is great for fans, broadcasters and commercial partners.”

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