In a major boost for Rugby World Cup and for the game in Japan, a world-record national audience tuned in to watch the Brave Blossoms defeat Samoa in Pool B on Saturday.

Twenty-five million people in Japan watched the 26-5 victory for Eddie Jones and his team in Milton Keynes, eclipsing the previous record of 20.7 million held by France, when national broadcaster TF1 televised the first semi-final of Rugby World Cup 2007 between France and England in Paris.

The recorded audience represents nearly 20 per cent of the entire Japanese population and a TV audience share in excess of 64 per cent. It is another strong indicator that the awareness and popularity of rugby is growing there as it prepares to host Rugby World Cup 2019.

World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “This is a significant result for the game in Japan. It shows that the general population there appreciate the sport and the amazing performances of their national team over the past few weeks. The highlight, of course, was the incredible win over South Africa in Brighton but Japan have set this entire tournament alight with how they have performed in all their games. Their style of play has really caught the imagination of rugby fans around the world and, as these broadcast numbers indicate, in Japan.

“This boost in interest could not be better timed as Rugby World Cup will venture outside of traditional rugby heartlands for the first time in 2019. It really has given the event a major shot in the arm.”

Still with a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals for the first time, Japan’s final pool match takes place on Sunday against USA at Kingsholm in Gloucester.