REVEALED: England’s bitter Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa watched by an enormous 8.7 million viewers in ITV’s biggest audience of 2023
- England were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by South Africa on Saturday
- Approximately 8.7 million viewers tuned in for the crucial final ten minutes
- The figure sets a record being ITV’s highest biggest audience so far this year
- Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results
ITV recorded their highest viewing figures of 2023 as a landmark 8.7 million tuned in for the dying embers of England’s bitter Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa on Sunday.
While it was a heroic performance from Steve Borthwick’s side, the Spring Boks claimed a narrow one point victory, scoring a converted try and penalty in the final 11 minutes to win 16-15 a.
Owen Farrell kicked England into the lead with five penalties, but their hopes of reaching the final were dashed, with second-row Rudolph Gerhardus Snyman crashing over for the current world champions, before substitute Handre Pollard kicked the match-winning penalty with just two minutes left on the clock.
It was a brutally physical encounter that came right down to the wire with a whopping 7.2m viewers tuning in to ITV1 to watch the game from kick-off to final whistle, with the match being the most watched game of the tournament so far.
While a record number of viewers tuned in to watch the end of the match, ITV have also announced that the entirety of the coverage for the game was also watched by 5.2m, the broadcaster’s biggest overnight audience so far this year after Britain’s got talent.
England were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup on Saturday night after suffering a narrow one-point defeat by South Africa
An enormous 8.7 million viewers tuned in to watch the dying embers of the match as Steve Borthwick’s side relinquished their lead to South Africa in the final few minutes of the game
The England team, who put up a heroic performance against the world champions, were left in disbelief at full-time
Those figures do not include include data from ITV’s streaming service ITVX, which have not yet been released.
It is the most watched rugby match since England were beaten 11-6 by Scotland in the 2021 Six Nations.
At full-time, tempers flared between both sides, with a scuffle breaking out on the pitch.
But it was England who would agonisingly miss out on making their second successive Rugby World Cup final, with the players dropping to their haunches having given everything during the match.
Despite having been unbeaten in the tournament up until Saturday night, much scrutiny has been directed at Borthwick’s side with questions being raised over some of the England bosses’ selection decisions, while the team’s performances have been also been called into question, particularly their narrow one-point victory against Samoa.
And despite the loss, England certainly answered their critics last night, with the team causing problems for the Spring Boks with the ball in hand, forcing Rassie Erasmus’ side to concede multiple penalties in the first half.
Elliot Daly, Freddie Steward and Jonny May all dominated the opposition in the air, while Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes both tortured South Africa at the breakdown and in contact.
After the match, Farrell lauded his team, admitting his pride at their gutsy performance against the the Spring Boks.
‘The fight we’ve shown today and effort we put in,’ he said after the match. ‘The sheer will at times today was outstanding and I hope we made everyone proud back home as well.’
‘There is a lot to come from this group,’ he added, speaking on the young stars coming through the ranks.
‘In that 23, we have seven players aged 25 or younger,’ he said.
‘That is the most of any of the semi-finalists so we have a great blend of experience and young players. We are disappointed but immensely proud of these guys and we’ll build going forward.
‘We have a very smart group of players that are learning very quickly because we have had to do it very quickly.’
South Africa will now face off against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday in what is gearing up to be an enormous clash between two titans of international rugby.
But Farrell also stressed that his side have not had the same level of preparation compared to the Spring Boks.
‘The opposition have had four years and we have had four months,’ the England captain said. ‘I asked the players to approach the training differently and they have embraced that.
It was a tough loss for Borthwick’s side who comforted each other after the final whistle
Tempers flared at full-time, with a scuffle breaking out after the final whistle
Owen Farrell gave England the lead heading into the final 10 minutes of the match, kicking five penalties
But England couldn’t secure the win with the Spring Boks kicking a penalty in the final two minutes to seal a narrow victory
‘We thought we were going to win tonight and we came here believing we would win. The players deserve enormous credit for that.
‘I think the tens of thousands of England fans watching here tonight and the millions watching at home will be very proud of their team.’
‘The fight we’ve shown today and effort we put in. The sheer will at times today was outstanding and I hope we made everyone proud back home as well.’
Before returning home, England will take on Argentina in the third place play-off on Friday night at the Stade de France.
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