The success of England in both the 2003 and 2007 World Cups aroused huge interest in the sport, intense outpourings of national pride and made household names of several key players. The game at both professional and amateur level has benefited from the explosion in interest on both occasions. Rugby union is the national sport in South Africa and New Zealand and is very popular in Australia and France. The high profile of the annual six nations tournament is testimony to its popularity in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy.
I) The 2007-8 season crowd figures averaged over 11,000 for just the second time since the inception of full time professional rugby in 1996. This maintained the trend of year on year growth which has occurred during the professional era.
II) The size of many stadia is a widespread obstacle to clubs increasing crowds to higher levels. The average level to capacity in the premiership is 85%, with clubs such as Gloucester, Sale, Bath, Worcester and Leicester regularly achieving capacity and therefore turning people away.
III) The Premiership has truly national representation with sides in the north east, north west, Yorkshire, Midlands, London and the south west. By comparison the Football Premiership has no sides in England's biggest county, Yorkshire.
I) Over 9 million people in the UK have an active interest in rugby union, making it the second most popular team sport in the UK behind football.
II) It sustains one weekly trade paper, Rugby Times and several monthly publications, including Rugby World and International Rugby News and generates the second most column inches of any other winter sport in the UK.
III) England matches on Sky regularly attract over 700,000 viewers, with terrestrial highlights usually achieving over 1.2 million.
IV) The reach of the sport is worldwide, but is expanding with particular speed in Europe. The European Cup and Shield competitions attract sides from over 8 nations including Portugal, Spain and Italy.
V) During October 2007 whilst the rugby World Cup was in full flow internet searches for rugby overtook football for the first time.
I) Since England won the 2003 World Cup playing numbers across the age groups have increased by over 60,000 (30%) with the biggest growth in the 7-11 age group with 23,000 (40%) more players. The success of the England team in 2007 is set to cause another positive skew in numbers.
II) With over £8 million of Sportsmatch investment achieved since 1992 the sport has achieved the second highest level of such funding.
III) The majority of spectators are from the AB1 demographic group with a gender ratio of approximately 80% male and 20% female at live domestic professional matches.