There is more to the rugby-NFL connection that runs almost as deep as the roots of American football. The similarities on-field will of course be noticeable, but what about how the two stack-up with on and off-field pageantry? Does the Rugby World Cup have the same hype as the football equivalent? Can we find a reasonable example of each to highlight how they are similar and different?
The 2003 Rugby World Cup is one of the most memorable Rugby World Cups ever. It marked the first and currently only time a team, not from South Africa, New Zealand, or Australia won the Rugby World Cup. This is similar to some Super Bowls played in recent memory.
Super Bowl and Rugby World Cup Similarities and Differences
England winning the Rugby World Cup in 2003
The England-Australia game was an unusual Rugby World Cup Final. There was only one try scored by each team. The first one was scored by Australian Lote Daulako Tuqiri in the 6th-minute. The English would respond in the 38-minute try by Jason Thorpe Robinson. The Australians lost the lead in the 20th minute when Jonathan Wilkinson converted his second of four penalties against Australia. They would not regain the lead but made the game close against England including tying the game late in the game.
This was thanks to Australian Elton Flatley who converted four penalties in the game including one late in the game to send it to extra time. However, it was not enough as Wilkinson converted the World Cup-winning drop goal to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup. To date, it is the only World Cup England has won. It is also the second-closest margin of victory of any Rugby World Cup, with the only one being closer being 2011, where New Zealand defeated France 8-7 during normal playing time.
Celebrations on a possible once in a lifetime sports achievement
The celebration seen with the 2003 Rugby World Cup can be compared to the 2017 Super Bowl when the Philadelphia Eagles won the title. The English team returned home to England from Australia, where the 2003 Rugby World Cup took place. When the English rugby union national men’s team returned to London’s Heathrow Airport, there was a huge crowd of fans awaiting them according to BBC Sport. In the BBC article, this is what Wilkinson, who won the game with a late drop goal said about the win.
“I’m overawed by the support – it’s hugely humbling and massively uplifting. The guys all appreciate that more than they can put into words.”
One can relate this to the Eagles winning the Super Bowl in 2017. It was their first NFL championship since 1960. As a result, the Eagles celebrated the Super Bowl title in a big way. This is what quarterback and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Foles said according to Eric Levenson and David Williams of CNN.
“I’ve never seen so many people in one spot, celebrating one thing,” quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles said in amazement.
— Jason Javie (@JasonJavie) February 8, 2018
Both sporting events generate lots of viewership
According to Zack Pumerantz of Bleacher Report in 2012, the Rugby World Cup is the third-most viewed World Cup behind the FIFA and Cricket World Cups. When compared to all events throughout the world including the Super Bowl, the Rugby World Cup is ranked 19th in the world while the Super Bowl is ranked 4th in the world. The Super Bowl is also the second-biggest event that only takes place in one country behind only The 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.
The 2020 Super Bowl generated $448.7 million (American dollars) of ad revenue in 2020 in under four hours of game time according to Kantar. This is a 33 percent increase from the 2019 Super Bowl. Also, according to Helen Coster of Reuters, the 2020 Super Bowl broadcast on Fox attracted an average TV audience of 99.9 million people. Furthermore, according to Kantar’s article, 74 percent of fans over age 18, said it was a “must watch” event. This is a huge lead over second in the list for people over 18 years old. MLB’s World Series is ranked second at 47 percent.
Looking at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, they attracted more than 3.5 billion viewers in 194 countries in 2003, nearly 50 percent higher than its 1999 viewership according to VISA. VISA also stated that the 2003 Rugby World Cup of revenues generated from broadcasting, sponsorship and licensing reached record levels. Lastly, the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final produced 15 million viewers in the UK according to ESPN UK. This is the highest viewership for the Rugby World Cup since the 1991 Rugby World Cup. This includes the match producing 12.7 million. Lastly, there were 22 million viewers watching the game worldwide.
Guinness have a Super Bowl ad https://t.co/oa9wAB7z5K
— Tom Felle (@tomfelle) February 6, 2021
More opportunities for growth in a Rugby World Cup
This popularity with the Super Bowl is seen in the USA and Canada. A big part of this is Canada having its own gridiron football league in the CFL (Canadian Football League).
Furthermore, Super Bowl attracts fans of mainly one country, the U.S. However, It is important to note that one-third of the viewers who watch the Super Bowl are international spectators according to Zack Willis of Sportscasting. Also, the Super Bowl is translated into seven languages and has seen an increase in popularity in Mexico.
However, there is not too much opportunity to grow the game. The fact is gridiron football is only played professionally in two countries, Canada, and the US. Additionally, there is a small pro arena football league in China. To grow the game either (1) more professional gridiron football leagues are created or (2) the NFL expands to a country outside of the US and Canada, which could be London, England. However, this has not yet materialized into reality.
The game of rugby union has grown since the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In 2003, many notable countries in the Commonwealth participated in the World Cup including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and South Africa. Since 2003, Japan has hosted the 2019 Rugby World Cup and there are now two pro rugby union leagues in the Americas.
46,998 followers?! 😍
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— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) November 16, 2020
The Super Bowl is a more localized event compared to the 2003 Rugby World Cup
As mentioned in the previous difference, the Super Bowl is an American event. It is also the most popular event in a country with 331,002,651 people in 2020 according to Worldometers. When looking at the NFL, there are no teams outside of the US right now. A lot of the fans outside of the US and Canada cannot relate to the Super Bowl as they do not have professional gridiron football. They can increase the viewership with an expansion team in London, England. There have been NFL London Games in London, England since 2007. There is also the NFL Mexico Game that started in 2016 and has a predecessor game in 2005 that takes place in Mexico City.
As a result, they should follow what is happening with the Toronto Wolfpack and the Ottawa Aces XIII, on establishing a transatlantic NFL team in London. The 2003 Rugby World Cup is an international event. Many of the well-known Commonwealth nations (this includes the US which at one time was part of the British Commonwealth) have played in the Rugby World Cup. This includes having two PRO14 teams in Italy, a Rugby World Cup in Japan, and two professional rugby union leagues in the Americas.
— NOLA Gold Rugby (@nolagoldrugby) April 21, 2018
Overview of the 2003 Rugby World Cup vs. the Super Bowl
Overall, both events are quite different. The Super Bowl takes place every year in America. This is while the Rugby World Cup takes place every four years in different countries. Also, the Super Bowl is a glamorized American event while the Rugby World Cup is an international event. However, they both have something in common, as it generates buzz when a team wins either event.
The Super Bowl is celebrated by fans of a city or state who takes over the streets. In the 2003 Rugby World Cup, a part of the country of the UK (England) celebrated the victory. However, it is important to note that all the other Rugby World Cups were won and celebrated by an entire country.
Remember, this is an opinion piece, so everyone will have different views. If one wants to look at what a Super League game looks like, the game will take place this Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs will play in Tampa, Florida where they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game will kickoff at 6:30 PM Eastern Time and will have limited in-person attendance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
🚨 TWO. DAYS. LEFT. 🚨 (by @Ford)
— NFL (@NFL) February 5, 2021
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