While most of New Zealand will be glued to the action in the Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park tonight, let's not kid ourselves the rest of the world will be tuning in - or will even notice the showpiece event is on.

The tournament has been a staggering success on these shores but one thing that won't be missed from tomorrow is the IRB-influenced spin around worldwide interest and viewing figures - that the media seem to regurgitate,

Myth number one: the potential total global cumulative audience for the 2011 Rugby World Cup matches will be 4.2 billion. Simple logic suggests that creative accounting methods have been employed.

The 2007 final attracted a total of 33 million viewers worldwide, who watched the game live and in its entirety. Assuming a similar figure will be eyeballing today's game, that still leaves over 4.16 billion people to watch the other 47 games. That's a spectacular average of almost 90 million viewers per match.


Games like Australia versus New Zealand and England vs France will attract a significant number - but three times the final? And who around the globe was riveted to Samoa vs Namibia or Georgia vs Romania? The only way these figures would come close to stacking up is if half the entire adult population of the USA and Russia tuned in to watch their clash on September 15, and most of them were suddenly hooked, going on to watch every single game.

Perhaps the most revealing of the 2007 audience figures was the lack of interest outside the major rugby nations.

The Putting Rugby First report found 97 per cent of the abovementioned 33 million came from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the four home nations and France. Fewer than one million tuned in from the IRB's other member nations - which number well over 100 - and include Japan, Argentina and the Pacific Islands. By extension, this capped the possible audience dramatically, even if records are set in the 'big eight' countries.

The IRB may beg to differ, but it is simply logic. Rugby is not a mainstream sport in almost all of South America (apart from Argentina), Asia, Africa, North America and mainland Europe. Even in England it is only followed by pockets of the nation; in Australia it is outrated by the other rugby codes.

Which leads to the second great myth: that the Rugby World Cup is the third largest sporting event in the world. Really? By what measure? The Fifa World Cup and the Olympics are unchallenged in the top two places. Behind them, the European football championships draw in most of the globe.

Then there are the Winter Olympics, which are huge in the Northern Hemisphere. The opening ceremony in 2006 attracted 87 million viewers.

Beyond that - what about the world basketball championships? Just visit China to see how big the game is there. When Yao Ming was at his peak that tournament was attracting huge audiences.

Then there are the Tour de France, Champions League, Wimbledon and US Masters.


And what about the one-off events? The 2007 Superbowl drew three times the number of viewers than the 2007 Rugby World Cup final, while the Brazilian Grand Prix that year attracted 78 million.

The IRB is not the only party guilty of exaggeration.

Fifa claimed 1.1 billion tuned into the 2006 World Cup final but has since admitted the true figure was closer to 350 million. Still, that is over 10 times the number that will be watching today.