Rugby World Cup matches will be broadcast on US network television for the first time after the International Rugby Board announced that NBC Sports and Universal Sports have been awarded the exclusive rights to the 2011 tournament in New Zealand and the 2015 tournament in England. The groundbreaking deal, announced by IRB Chief Executive Mike Miller in New York, will see the final of each Rugby World Cup broadcast on NBC and Universal Sports network as a key element of a multi-platform approach that will ensure unprecedented television and digital media coverage in the United States of all 48 matches from Rugby’s premier event.

Under the deal, NBC and Universal Sports has also committed to broadcasting other key matches from each tournament, while live and delayed match video will also be accessible at Universal; and on Universal Sports’ mobile platforms.

Universal Sports’ and NBC Sports’ match coverage will feature a studio pre-match show, halftime and post-match reaction and all the action will be broadcast in high definition.

IRB Chief Executive Mike Miller said: “Today’s announcement represents a significant milestone in the development of Rugby in the United States. NBC and Universal Sports are globally renowned for quality broadcast delivery of major sports events in the United States and their considerable experience and passion for sport will deliver the widespread platform for Rugby World Cup to truly capture the hearts and minds of American sports fans.”

“The announcement further underscores the sport’s rapidly growing profile in emerging Rugby markets, further accelerated by the IOC’s decision to include Rugby Sevens in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Sports fans across America will be able to look forward to a Rugby World Cup that will showcase the very best that our sport has to offer. I am sure that it will be a hit.”

Universal Sports Chief Executive Officer David Sternberg said: “This is a very significant rights acquisition for Universal Sports, especially given the growing popularity of Rugby around the world and in America. We are delighted to be partnering with the IRB for the Rugby World Cup and other top events, and we look forward to showcasing global Rugby, at its highest level, for our audiences across all of our platforms – television, online and mobile.”

The deal enhances Universal Sports’ commitment to Rugby in the United States and reflects growing interest in the sport following the International Olympic Committee’s decision to include Rugby Sevens in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The network has also broadcast the US College Sevens and the Churchill Cup this year, bringing Rugby to the attention of more sports fans across the country than ever before.