FEWER than one million people watched the Rugby World Cup final in 2007 outside of the eight major rugby nations, says a report.
The figure is in contrast to the 4.2 billion "total cumulative average audience" touted by this year's World Cup organisers as key to promoting New Zealand around the world.
In a Herald story this week that the tournament would cost $1.2 billion in investments, Rugby World Cup chief organiser Martin Snedden said the global audience was one of the event's intangible benefits.
"You can understand, if you are aware of these events, the really extensive worldwide media coverage and television coverage it gets," he said. "It goes to so many different countries."
The report, Putting Rugby First, studied television audience data to find that only 33 million people watched the Cup final in 2007.
Ninety-seven per cent of the total was from eight countries in which the All Blacks regularly play - New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France.
Fewer than one million people watched the match in all of the International Rugby Board's 110 other member nations, including Japan, Argentina, Italy, Canada, the United States and Samoa.
"Rugby is evidently not particularly popular in most of them," the report said.
Only about 500,000 rugby enthusiasts outside of the eight major nations watched the game live.
The report, published in 2008, called itself "an independent report into rugby's global future" and lobbied the IRB for reforms to make rugby a global game.
Early that year, the IRB announced that the 2007 tournament had broken its previous broadcast viewership records "with a potential cumulative reach of over 4.2 billion".
Meanwhile, former All Black and World Cup champion A.J. Whetton said yesterday that it was disappointing the tournament was attracting negative publicity.
"Be positive, for a change," Whetton said. "My point of view is that people have got to get real ... Think of the opportunity to have a world-class event in our little country."
It was rare to get the chance to be so close to the cup, he said.
"Because if we're going to do it, we're going to do it right - otherwise don't bother doing it at all. That's the nature of the whole thing."
Former All Black Frank Bunce said it had been known from the beginning that money would be lost.
Mr Snedden, CEO of Rugby NZ 2011, lashed out on radio on Tuesday night against the Herald's survey of costs.
"In my view, it's a piece of junk," Mr Snedden said.
"And it's really rare that I would get into any sort of public slanging match about the media."
Mr Snedden said it was unfair to count projects that the tournament could have been staged without.
"For God's sake, the Rugby World Cup could easily have taken place without anything being done to the airports or ports."
He also said ticket revenues should have been included as an economic benefit to the country.
But University of Canterbury economist Eric Crampton emailed the Herald with another viewpoint.
"Nice work on the nonsense of Rugby World Cup benefit estimates. The massive consensus of the academic literature is that these things are a nonsense," Dr Crampton said.
He offered six links to economic studies saying investments in major events - and particularly stadiums - never pay off.
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