Rugby League World Cup 2017 Chief Executive Andrew Hill declared the stage is set for an enthralling finals series after three weeks of pool matches which have captured the imagination of millions of fans around the globe and showcased the development of the international game.
Hill has congratulated the eight teams who have progressed through to the quarter-finals, including host nations Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, first time finalists Lebanon, powerhouse England and Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.
He also acknowledged the performance of the Pacific nations, with Tonga, Fiji and PNG joining Australia as undefeated winners of their pools, and said their success confirmed RLWC2017 was the most competitive of the 15 World Cups played since 1954.
“The Rugby League World Cup has showed the cultural significance of each team,” Hill said.
“Across all three host countries, we have seen passionate fans turn out to support their country and likewise we want to thank each team for spending time in their visiting host cities to deliver clinics, visit schools and meet the fans.
“At the start of the Tournament our mission was to inspire the communities to celebrate Rugby League and to entertain the world. With some of the highlights seen across New Zealand, PNG and Australia, we are certainly on track to deliver on that promise.
“The exciting finish to the pool stages has set the stage for hotly contested finals series. All countries delivered quality Rugby League competition over the past three weeks and I want to thank Ireland, Wales, France, Scotland, Italy and USA for their participation in the event.”
Close to 500,000 fans watched the Tonga upset New Zealand 28-22 in a thriller at Waikato Stadium on Saturday, while the Australia-Lebanon match on the same night reached 2.2 million viewers and was the highest ranking non-news program for the day.
In Australia, across the Seven Network, the tournament has attracted 5.5 million viewers so far, with 8.4 millions streaming minutes over the first three rounds. And the Australia-England opener was the fifth most watched Rugby League match of the year after the three State of Origin games and the NRL Grand Final.
The tournament has already featured four sell-out games with more than 236,000 fans attending matches at nine different venues across three countries, proving the decision to take the RLWC2017 to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea a worthwhile strategy.
In Australia, across capital cities and regional cities, fans have turned out to support all nations. This Friday night Australia will play in the Northern Territory for the first time when they take on Samoa at Darwin Stadium.
While this week farewells six nations, Hill also welcomed the six nations competing in the Women’s Rugby League World Cup – Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Canada and England – starting this Thursday in Sydney.
The Women’s Rugby League World Cup is being staged as a stand-alone event for the first time and the final will be played at Brisbane Stadium on the same day as the decider of the men’s tournament.
Friday, 17 November at Darwin Stadium
Australia v Samoa (winner advances to semi-final at Brisbane Stadium, 24 November)
Saturday, 18 November at Wellington Regional Stadium
New Zealand v Fiji (winner advances to semi-final at Brisbane Stadium, 24 November)
Saturday, 18 November at Christchurch Stadium
Tonga v Lebanon (winner advances to semi-final at Mt Smart Stadium, 25 November)
Sunday, 19 November at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
England v Papua New Guinea (winner advances to semi-final at Mt Smart Stadium, 25 November)