Rugby World Cup 2019 reaches new broadcast heights – in space!

Rugby-mad Italian astronaut will watch his beloved Azzurri take on South Africa from the International Space Station, thanks to a special broadcast feed from World Rugby.

TOKYO, 3 Oct - Rugby World Cup 2019 is setting new broadcast records on and off the planet.

No sooner had World Rugby confirmed a record single-market live audience for Japan’s stunning win over Ireland of 28.9 per cent, the governing body announced it was broadcasting the tournament to the International Space Station.

Italian European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano is a massive rugby fan and although he has taken over command of the International Space Station this week some 408 kilometres above Japan, he will be able to watch his beloved Azzurri take on South Africa on Friday thanks to World Rugby.

In what will be the first Rugby World Cup broadcast in space, World Rugby is providing a special feed for Parmitano, who believes that rugby has similar qualities to those required to run a successful space mission.

“Rugby is a fantastic game that celebrates friendship and teamwork,” he said.

“Just like you have to work together to achieve a try, we on board the International Space Station have to collaborate with a team of astronauts and ground personnel from all over the world in order to achieve our objective, ‘our try’, which is space exploration, technology and science.

 “Celebrating sport, your sport of community, teamwork and competition in the name of sportsmanship – we on board the station cooperate together to look for a better world.

“Taking into consideration all the common factors that link our two worlds I wish to wish you again good luck for this championship and this important match!”

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and Sergio Parisse exchange messages
Italian European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and Sergio Parisse exchange messages ahead of Italy's pool match with South Africa.

Italy currently top Pool B and captain Sergio Parisse, who will be making his 142nd test appearance against South Africa to become the second most capped player of all time behind Richie McCaw, said: “It is an incredible feeling to know that the test match on Friday will reach the space station – rugby and Rugby World Cup truly are without borders.

“It is the first time that a Rugby World Cup match is being shown in space and we are lucky to have an Italian supporter up there. We hope to be able to share the joy with you and hope to gift you some beautiful emotions.”

Back on earth, Rugby World Cup is capturing the imagination of fans around the world with the latest broadcast figures demonstrating that the sport is reaching new audiences.

Japan’s second match against Ireland saw a peak audience figure of 28.9 per cent on NHK, a figure that is likely to have delivered a live audience of approximately 30 million given the prime-time slot.

In the UK, ITV recorded a 29.6 per cent audience share for the same match with 1.8 million watching despite the early hour, while 1.2 million watched the later South Africa versus Namibia match, demonstrating the popularity of teams beyond their own countries.