Mils Muliaina of New Zealand's All Blacks runs at Quade Cooper (R) of Australia's Wallabies during their Tri-Nations Bledisloe Cup rugby match at Eden Park in Auckland August 6, 2011.
WELLINGTON - Around 95,000 rugby fans are expected to come to New Zealand next month for the Rugby World Cup, 10,000 more than previously forecast, organizers announced Tuesday, exactly one month before the tournament kicks off.
The new forecast was based on match ticket sales abroad, according to Rugby New Zealand 2011 (RNZ 2011).
"This is tremendous news and a real sign of just how big Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011) will be for our country," said RNZ 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden.
"The upsurge in support from overseas fans is a strong sign of confidence in our ability to host the biggest sporting event New Zealand has ever held."
Visitors were expected from more than 100 countries during the six-week tournament, including more than 30,000 from Australia, while expected numbers were also strong in traditional rugby- playing nations.
"We are expecting around 25,000 fans from the UK and Ireland and another 10,000 from France," said Snedden.
"It's also terrific to see good numbers coming from the Americas, and that USA, Canada and Argentina will be well supported. Our estimates suggest 10,000 from these countries."
Previous analysis suggested visitors on average would stay 23 days and 44 percent would visiting New Zealand for the first time.
RNZ 2011 also reported that ticket sales had climbed to 1.08 million up from 1 million a month ago putting the tournament on track to achieve its sales targets.
Revenue to date totaled 234 million NZ dollars ($191.34 million), against a target of 268.5 million NZ dollars based on an expected 1.35 million tickets sold for the 48 tournament matches.
"Fans have snapped up more than 180,000 tickets since the final ticketing phase launched on July 4," claimed Snedden.
"As at previous Rugby World Cups in France and Australia, sales will rise during the build-up to the tournament as the event becomes that much more tangible for fans. At the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, 20 percent of sales were made in the month of the Games.
"Our challenge over the remaining 10 weeks is to generate another 34 million NZ dollars of revenues, the equivalent of about another 230,000 ticket sales. Given what we have sold over the last 10 weeks, this is clearly achievable."
Before the Rugby World Cup, the highest revenue-generating event in New Zealand's history was the 2005 British and Irish Lions Tour, which had grossed 24 million NZ dollars.
In June, organizers were dismissing fears of half-empty stadiums during the tournament with only about half of 1.6 million total World Cup seats filled, and Snedden said in May that reaching the World Cup's sales target would be challenging, but achievable.
The IRB Rugby World Cup, the third largest sports event in the world, first kicked off in 1987 and is held every four years.
A total broadcast audience of more than 4 billion people saw the 2007 tournament in France.
RNZ 2011, established in 2006, is responsible for the planning and delivery of RWC 2011 in New Zealand on behalf of the New Zealand Rugby Union and the New Zealand government.