A month out from the tournament kickoff, Rugby World Cup organizers announced Tuesday that ticket sales have reached 87 percent of target levels, boosted by the rush since Saturday's Bledisloe Cup win at Eden Park.
Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden said 1.08 million tickets have so far been sold. That represented revenue of 234 million New Zealand dollars ($185 million); 34.5 million dollars ($27 million) short of organizers' final goal.
The tournament opens with New Zealand against Tonga at Eden Park on September 9, and culminates with a final at the Auckland venue on Oct. 23. The All Blacks, consistently the No. 1-ranked team in the world, haven't won the World Cup since co-hosting the inaugural edition with Australia in 1987.
Snedden said the number of international visitors expected during the World Cup had been revised up from 85,000 to 95,000 based on international ticket sales, including 30,000 from Australia and 35,000 from Britain, Ireland and France.
"The upsurge in support from overseas fans is a strong sign of confidence in our ability to host the biggest sporting event New Zealand has ever held," Snedden said. "It also underlines what we have always said; that this tournament brings multiple economic benefits to our country as well as providing a priceless opportunity to show the best of New Zealand to the world."
Snedden said an analysis of ticket sales for 2011 showed worldwide interest in the tournament.
"We are expecting around 25,000 fans from the UK and Ireland and another 10,000 from France," he said. "It's also terrific to see good numbers coming from the Americas, and that USA, Canada and Argentina will be well supported. Our estimates suggest 10,000 from these countries."
Snedden said 300,000 tickets, representing revenue of 65 million New Zealand dollars (US$51 million), had sold in the past 10 weeks.
"As at previous Rugby World Cups in France and Australia, sales will rise during the build-up to the tournament as the event becomes that much more tangible for fans," he said. "At the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, 20 percent of sales were made in the month of the games.
"We are seeing a lift in sales each week and the success of the Bledisloe match at Eden Park on Saturday is already adding to momentum. We have sold a million dollars worth of tickets since then."
Snedden said the challenge over the month before the tournament starts and then the six weeks of its duration is to generate another 34 million New Zealand dollars of revenues, the equivalent of about another 230,000 ticket sales.
"Given what we have sold over the last 10 weeks, this is clearly achievable."
A recent nationwide survey showed more than one-third of New Zealanders were not looking forward to the World Cup and a further 29 percent were ambivalent. Snedden said Rugby New Zealand 2011's own polling showed growing interest in the tournament.
"There have been suggestions recently that Kiwis were not that interested in RWC 2011, but our research tells us otherwise," he said. "Nationally, 88 percent of New Zealanders say they are interested to some degree in RWC 2011 and despite all of the challenges and disappointments for the people of Christchurch this year, they remain one of the most interested of the regions with 42 percent of those polled in Christchurch saying they are very interested in the tournament.
"More than two-thirds of New Zealanders are also looking forward to RWC 2011 more than any other event in the next two to three years."
Snedden said tournament organizers had used last Saturday's Bledisloe Cup test between New Zealand and Australia at Auckland's Eden Park as a dry run for the tournament. Some fans complained that train services to and from the ground were inadequate and that there was congestion at some stadium gates, but Snedden dismissed those complaints.
"From our perspective, Saturday night could barely have gone better," he said. "We were able to test much of the RWC 2011 planning and protocols and new stadia facilities in a live match environment with a large crowd. We identified some fine tuning we will need to do as expected, but by and large the venue and plans passed the test with flying colors and the fans appear to have endorsed that view."
International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset said the IRB was confident with a month to go that the World Cup would be "a resounding success."
"The stadia are ready, the supporting infrastructure is ready, the volunteers are ready, ticket sales are on track and hosting will deliver long lasting benefits for New Zealand and New Zealand Rugby.