Auckland - Rugby World Cup officials said on Wednesday they were "delighted" with global television viewing figures ahead of this weekend's final in their showpiece tournament.
According to a statement issued by Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL), which runs the competition on behalf of the International Rugby Board (IRB), a New Zealand record 1.97 million viewers tuned in to the host nation's 20-6 semi-final victory over Australia via TV One, SKY, TV3 and Maori Television last weekend.
Audience take-up in Australia was similarly enthusiastic with a nationwide audience of 3.23 million people watching the match - smashing, RWCL insisted, the all-time pay TV record for Fox Sports and topping the free-to-air ratings on Channel Nine.
European figures were similarly well received by RWCL, with France's semi-final win against Wales attracting an audience of 9.5 million on TFI, despite the 10:00 local kick-off time.
In the United Kingdom, ITV registered its best viewing figures of the tournament with an average of 5.9 million viewers watching France's 9-8 victory over Wales.
The last 15 minutes of the match netted a peak audience of 6.6 million - a 58% share.
"Rugby World Cup 2011 has been an exceptional event on and off the field and what we are seeing with the strong viewing figures is a reflection of the highly competitive and compelling matches and the tournament’s position as a truly major international event," said RWCL and IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"The audience figures in New Zealand highlight the massive level of interest in what is the biggest event ever to be hosted in the country," the Frenchman added.
"Rugby World Cup 2011 has captured the hearts and minds of a nation who have been exceptionally welcoming hosts.
"The scene is now set for a thrilling climax to the tournament," he added ahead of Sunday's final between New Zealand and France."