While all eyes are on the soccer World Cup right now, sporting attention will turn to its rugby counterpart next year. NBC Sports and sister Universal Sports Network will air the 2011 Rugby World Cup action from New Zealand, as well as the 2015 Cup from England.
The Olympic-themed digital channel and NBC Sports will provide full, multi-platform coverage of all 48 matches during the 2011 and 2015 World Cups. Two matches in each tournament, including the Cup finals, will air either live or on a same-day delay on NBC Sports. Live and delayed match video will also be accessible at www.universalsports.com, and on Universal Sports' mobile platforms. Coverage will feature a studio pre-game show, halftime and post-game shows, and will be offered in high definition.
"This is a very significant rights acquisition for Universal Sports, especially given the growing popularity of rugby around the world and in America," said Universal Sports CEO David Sternberg. "We are delighted to be partnering with the IRB for the Rugby World Cup and other top events, and we look forward to showcasing global rugby, at its highest level, for our audiences across all of our platforms-television, online and mobile."
South Africa's "Springboks" won the 2007 World Cup, taking the final over England. The U.S. "Eagles" were knocked out after pool play, but gave England a hardy challenge in their opener before falling 28-10.
International Rugby Board (IRB) CEO and Secretary General Mike Miler called the announcement "a significant milestone" for rugby in the United States. "NBC and Universal Sports are globally renowned for quality broadcast delivery of major sports events in the United States," he said, "and their considerable experience and passion for sport will deliver the widespread platform for Rugby World Cup to truly capture the hearts and minds of American sports fans."
Rugby's World Cup drew an estimated 4.2 billion viewers worldwide in 2007. The 2011 competition begins September 9, when host New Zealand meets Tonga. The field consists of 20 nations, including the U.S..
The agreement extends Universal Sports' focus on rugby, an emerging sport in the U.S. that will debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Universal Sports televised the U.S. Sevens Collegiate Championship and the ongoing six-country Churchill Cup tournament. The final two matches of the Churchill Cup, the U.S. against France and Canada against England's national developmental "Saxons" squad, will air live from Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey June 19 at 2:30 p.m.