John Campbell, wife Louise and sons Riley and Logan, from Wellington, yesterday received the first of 789,000 Rugby World Cup tickets sold to date, as global deliveries roll out during the next three weeks.

"The tickets look sensational. We're amped. The boys have got the tickets in their hands and they're thrilled. They were counting down the days until they came in the letterbox," Mr Campbell said.

"We're seeing it all gearing up now - you see more flags around Wellington already."

Rugby World Cup boss Martin Snedden said the ticket deliveries were tangible signs of the tournament drawing near. "This is the biggest ticket sales campaign ever undertaken in New Zealand so it's great to finally get to this point," Mr Snedden said.

The sales total, out of 1.6 million tickets available and a sales target of 1.35 million, represents 49 per cent of capacity and 58 per cent of the target.

The figures have been hit by 130,000 refunds for Christchurch matches relocated by the earthquake. These tickets will be reoffered to the original ticketholders from Monday before being returned to the public pool in six weeks.

The tournament must make $99 million in sales to reach its target operating deficit of $39 million, two-thirds of which will be covered by the taxpayer.

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said the current figures were at an artificial low point between refunds and resales, though they still presented a challenge. "I'm still comfortable with where [the ticket sales] are tracking," he said.

In contrast to the difficulties in New Zealand sales, overseas figures show that about 85,000 people abroad have bought tickets - exceeding optimistic projections of between 60,000 and 70,000 World Cup visitors.

The final phase of public ticket sales will start on July 4, when all remaining tickets will become available on an individual, real-time basis.

The finals rounds and the NZ-France match are expected to quickly sell out in July. Everything else will likely have vacancies.

FAST SELLERS
* Australia vs Ireland, Eden Park

* France vs Canada, McLean Park

* NZ vs France, Eden Park

* Fiji vs Samoa, Eden Park

* France vs Tonga, Stadium Wellington

* England vs Scotland, Eden Park

* NZ vs Canada, Stadium Wellington

* Knockout rounds

THE NUMBERS

Total tickets:
1.6m

Sales target: 1.35m (82 per cent capacity)

Tickets sold: 789,000 (58 per cent of target, 49 per cent of total)

Christchurch refunds: 130,000

Necessary sales: $99m