The ongoing Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) in England has already attracted more viewers – both on TV and online – in the UK than any previous edition of the event.

Tournament organizers announced the average domestic broadcast audience for each match up to Sunday (November 6) totaled more than 18.7 million.

The 2022 RLWC kicked off on October 15 and will end with a final in Manchester on November 19. It was originally meant to be played last year, only to be delayed by 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The men’s, women’s, and wheelchair tournaments are being staged together for the first time and are taking place across 21 venues throughout England. The women’s and wheelchair competitions are being contested by two groups of four teams, while the men’s tournament involves 16 teams competing across four groups.

All matches have been aired live domestically on UK public broadcaster the BBC, with last weekend’s (November 5) men’s quarter-final between England and Papua New Guinea becoming the first to average more than 1.5 million viewers.

Viewership during the match, which saw England beat Papua New Guinea 46-6, peaked at 1.7 million. The number was only slightly less than the opening men’s match between England and Samoa, which was viewed by 1.8 million.

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RLWC organizers said the women’s and wheelchair tournaments were also attracting bid audiences, with both England teams averaging 500,000 viewers per match.

England’s women’s game against Canada on Saturday (November 5) and England’s wheelchair game against Australia both reached a peak of over 700,000.

In total, the domestic TV audience for last weekend’s fixtures (November 5 and 6) reached 3.7 million, with digital and online figures bringing the number up to 4.3 million.

Along with broadcast audiences, there has also been an increase in crowds, with the attendance at the DW Stadium for England’s match against Papua New Guinea hitting 23,179 – a record for an RLWC quarter-final match.

England women’s game against Brazil also broke the record of being the most attended women’s rugby league game in the northern hemisphere with 8,621 people watching at Headingley Stadium.

RLWC tournament chief executive John Dutton said: “As the tournament builds towards the latter stages, we can really see how momentum is building, with increasing audiences reflected in the latest update on broadcast figures.

“The coverage so far across the BBC and wider broadcast partners has been fantastic and I’m really pleased with how we’ve been able to showcase the sport to dedicated rugby league fans as well as new audiences around the globe.

“Those close to the sport already knew how gripping it can be, but the reaction and the audience figures as the group games have progressed has been incredible, with yet more to come.”

Image: Gareth Copley/Getty Images