Rugby League World Cup: RFL delighted with event's impact

New Zealand perform the Haka against Samoa

Rugby League World Cup

26 October to 30 November
Watch England's group matches, plus one quarter-final, one semi-final and the final live on BBC TV, online, mobiles and Connected TVs. Listen to every match live on BBC Radio 5 or 5 live sports extra

Brian Barwick, chairman of the Rugby Football League, says he is delighted with how the World Cup has captured the imagination of the British public.

Early attendances have been impressive, while many of the first seven group games have been close contests.

"You've got to get off to a flying start," he told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"If you do that, you've got a real chance. I'm so pleased for the people who've worked so hard to bring it here and to make it work."

involving co-hosts England and Wales, pre-event favourites Australia and World Cup debutants Italy in Cardiff.

Games staged at and were played in front of capacity crowds, while Workington's Derwent Park attracted its biggest attendance for almost two decades as it played host to

And on Wednesday 7,247 watched in Bristol - a city not traditionally associated with rugby league.

USA v Cook Islands at Bristol's Memorial Stadium
A crowd of 7,247 watched USA beat Cook Islands at Bristol's Memorial Stadium on Wednesday

"I think the Olympics [in London] last year changed people's perceptions of big occasions," continued Barwick. "It felt like it had come to them.

"I think the same will happen with the Commonwealth Games [in Glasgow] next year as well. People feel they can drop into a tournament or an event without having had 50 years of fellowship with it.

"What we want to get out of this as a sport is not just a fantastic tournament, but also some people coming to the sport that wouldn't have come before."

Barwick, a former chief executive of the Football Association, is also happy with the amount of media coverage that the World Cup is receiving, adding: "Newspapers that we've struggled to make an impact in, we're in with lots of column inches, stories, photographs and previews. Because it got off to a flier, the media are rolling with it."

England's second group game, against Ireland at Huddersfield's John Smith's Stadium on Saturday, is already sold out.

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