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World Cup a great success - IRB chief
London
November 11, 1999

International Rugby Board president Vernon Pugh has fended off criticism of the World Cup and described the showpiece as "a great success."
Pugh shrugged off gripes about the event, hosted by Wales and centred on Cardiff's space-age Millennium Stadium where Australia defeated France in last Saturday's final. Happy that early information showed sale of tickets for World Cup '99 had produced £55million and income from commercial revenue was over £60million, Pugh argued that TV ratings should be used to some extent to gauge the competition's popularity.

He said: "In Argentina over five million homes watched Argentina v France on television - more than half the number of households in that football-mad country."

He added: "The Channel 7 rating in Australia for their match against South Africa was a record. In France the total audience share exceeded an average of 60 per cent on four occasions and reached nearly 80 per cent for the final, with an estimated peak audience of 14.7million viewers."

Earlier this week former Australian captain Phil Kearns blasted the way the World Cup was run in Britain - and told his own country which is hosting the 2003 competition: "There's a million lessons we can learn from them on how not to do it."

Kearns was dissatisfied with the way the event was promoted, the standard of refereeing and television coverage. The ex-Wallaby hooker said that, from a playing perspective, the tournament "wasn't too bad" but claimed: "There's a million lessons we can learn from them on how not to do it."

"The coverage from my television was woeful; the scheduling of the games was poor; the fact that the home countries never had to travel from their own home base was pretty ordinary."

But Pugh, writing in The Times, said: "Every match was played on time in superb surroundings and without any big problems of travel or security. Compare that with the Atlanta Olympics in 1994, or the World Cup in France in 1998 and the horrific scenes from Marseilles and some other venues. "In short the host unions deserve the highest praise. There were problems, including some duplication on ticket printing, and these should not have occurred. But they do need to be put into perspective.

"In short, the rugby World Cup was a great success."

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