Nigel Wood has hailed the record-breaking group stages of Rugby League World Cup 2013 as two of the most memorable and momentous weeks the sport has ever experienced.
And as eight teams prepare for this weekend’s eagerly-anticipated quarter-finals, Wood is predicting that the tournament is on track to meet and in many cases exceed the targets it set before the opening ceremony.
The 21 group matches have been played out in front of packed stadiums and massive television audiences, giving Rugby League an unprecedented profile lift which Wood, the RLWC2013 Tournament Director, believes has laid the foundations for a positive and long-lasting legacy.
“The first two weeks of RLWC2013 have exceeded all expectations and have served to demonstrate both our supporters’ appetite for international Rugby League and the sport’s ability to attract new fans and sponsors,” said Wood.
“The tournament has captured the imagination of the sporting world and it is clear that RLWC2013 has already done justice to its place in the UK’s golden decade of sport.
“RLWC2013 has provided Rugby League with a rare opportunity to grab the attention of the nation and it is heartening to see the nation sitting up and taking notice of this great sport.
“The final at Old Trafford on Saturday November 30 is heading towards a sell out and we are experiencing massive demand for tickets for this weekend’s quarter-finals and the semi-final ‘Big Hit’ double-header at Wembley on Saturday week.
“With more capacity crowds coming up, it’s inevitable that some fans are going to miss out by leaving it too late to buy their ticket. However we are delighted that demand is so high for a tournament that is going to be talked about for many years to come.
“This really is a fantastic time to be a Rugby League supporter.”
More than a quarter of a million people have turned out to watch the 21 group stages matches which have seen records broken at a number of stadiums, including Huddersfield, where the John Smith’s Stadium attracted its biggest ever attendance for a sporting event for England’s victory over Ireland.
The biggest ever crowd for an international Rugby League game in Wales packed into the Millennium Stadium for the RLWC2013 opening ceremony, whilst huge crowds have filled the stands at Warrington, Rochdale, Workington, Bristol, the KC Stadium in Hull, Avignon and Perpignan.
That popularity has also been reflected with the tournament’s success as a television spectacle with millions of fans around the world watching the captivating action unfold.
Almost seven million people tuned in to watch England’s three Group A matches on the BBC and Premier Sports have recorded unprecedented audiences for their coverage throughout the tournament.
One feature of the tournament so far has been the off-field camaraderie that exists between the players involved in all 14 competing nations, which has made for a striking counterpoint to the fearsomely competitive nature of the matches.
“The players have been simply magnificent and have done the sport, their nations and themselves proud,” said Wood. “The ferocity on the field has been more than matched by the warmth of the celebrations off it.
“Just as the players deserve credit for the success so far, so too do all the people who have made it happen: their efforts have been outstanding.
“I would also like to thank the host towns, cities and venues for the part they are playing in helping us bring our vision to reality.”
The first RLWC2013 quarter-final match takes place at Headingley Carnegie Stadium in Leeds on Friday (8.00pm) when New Zealand face Scotland, who like the Kiwis are unbeaten having won two and drawn one of their group fixtures.
A day later, Australia face USA at the Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium in Wrexham (1.00pm) before England take on France at the DW Stadium in Wigan (8.00).
The fourth and final team to take their place in the Big Hit double-header semi-finals at Wembley Stadium on Saturday November 23 will be decided on Sunday, when Samoa face Fiji at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington (3.00pm).
To make sure you’ll #bethere buy your tickets now by visiting www.rlwc2013.com/tickets or calling the 24-hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.