England’s Record-Breaking Rugby World Cup Headed for Sellout

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England's Rugby CEO on Preparations for World Cup

Next month’s Rugby World Cup, hosted by England and Wales, is set to become the biggest in the sport’s history.

With four weeks until England opens the tournament against Fiji at Twickenham Stadium, 90 percent of a record 2.4 million tickets have been sold. Tickets are still available for the opening match as well as ones featuring New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Ireland and France.

Organizers, who had to pay the sport’s global governing body World Rugby an 80 million-pound ($125 million) guarantee to host the world’s third-biggest sports event, are hoping for a sellout.

“Our ambition is to fill every single stadium,” Stephen Brown, managing director of the Rugby World Cup, said in an interview at Twickenham in West London Tuesday. “We’re reasonably confident we can do it.”

The six-week tournament, consisting of 48 matches at 12 venues in England and Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, is expected to attract 400,000 international visitors and generate as much as 1 billion pounds for the U.K. economy.

The sport has grown since Australia and New Zealand hosted the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, selling 600,000 tickets. Some

2.2 million tickets were sold when it was organized by France in

2007.

The event will be televised in 207 territories and free-to-air broadcasts could help attract fans in nations including the U.S., Brazil, Germany and China. World Rugby expects the event to make more than 200 million pounds, on revenue of between $800 million and $900 million.

A victory at home for England, which won the 2003 World Cup in Australia, is one of the main targets of the Rugby Football Union, the sport’s governing body in England.

“An England win would be fantastic, not only for the event itself from our perspective, but also going forward,” RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said in an interview.

Ritchie, who was chief executive of the Wimbledon tennis championships for six years, joined the RFU in 2011. England was knocked out of the quarterfinals of the World Cup that year in New Zealand and Martin Johnson quit as coach.

New Zealand is the 5-4 favorite to retain the title at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc, followed by England at 7-2 and South Africa at 11-2.

England, now led by Stuart Lancaster, narrowly lost out on the Six Nations title in March to defending champions Ireland. The squad beat France 19-14 at Twickenham on Saturday and the teams will meet again in Paris on Aug. 22. England has a final warm-up match against Ireland at Twickenham on Sept. 5.

“We know how tough it’s going to be, but we think we’re in a good place,” Ritchie said. “We’ll be giving it our best shot.”

(An earlier version of this story corrected the location of the 2007 World Cup.)