As a sport that delivers fast-paced matches complete with thrilling tackles and diving tries, it’s easy to see why rugby is loved by so many. From Europe to Oceania, Asia to the Americas, rugby fans can be found on every continent. But which country loves the game the most?
In 2020, World Rugby released a participation map that listed the registered and total number of players across the world. With the help of this map, here are the seven countries that have the highest number of players and can claim to be the most rugby-mad nations.
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As the country where rugby was founded, it makes sense that England should be one of the most rugby loving nations. In total, England had 2,112,603 players in 2020. The population of the UK was around 67 million at the time, which means 3.2% of the country’s population plays the sport.
Wales is the home of several native Celtic sports which include Cnapan, a medieval game that resembled football and is thought to be a possible precursor of modern rugby. Today, Wales is a country that loves rugby. In fact, figures from 2020 show that of Wales’ 3,170,000 population, 3.4% or 107,959 people played rugby.
The first of five Oceania countries on this list, New Zealand is the most successful rugby nation in history with three successful Rugby World Cup wins. In terms of rugby players, the country had 156,074 players in 2020. This represents 3% of the New Zealand’s 5.1 million population.
This group of 15 islands in the South Pacific Ocean may seem like an unlikely place for rugby to thrive but the Cook Islands are the fourth biggest rugby players in the world. In 2020, the population of the Cook Islands was approximately 17,500 with 12% or 2,078 people playing rugby.
Up next is Fiji. While Fiji may be one of the smallest nations on this list, don’t let their size fool you. In 2020, this country had a population of 920,000 with a total of 225,180 players. In total, this means approximately 25% or one in four Fijians play rugby. This goes some way to explaining Fiji’s spectacular rugby results and their success in the World Rugby Rankings.
A tiny island country sitting in the South Pacific Ocean, those who live in Niue eat, sleep and breathe rugby. Their population in 2020 was approximately 1,626 people, of which 917 played rugby. This number is seriously impressive as it represents 57% of Niue’s total population.
Taking the top spot is Tonga. This little rugby loving nation had a population of just 105,000 in 2020. Of this 105,000, a total of 60,030 played rugby. This means a whopping 58% of the Tonga population plays rugby, which makes them the biggest rugby loving country in the world.