New Zealand, home to the All Blacks and the next Rugby World Cup in 2011, cooled its interest in the national sport to the lowest on record, a poll said.
Sixty percent of the 750 people surveyed last month by UMR Research said they were either very interested or fairly interested in rugby, UMR said in a statement. That’s the lowest since the survey began in 1993. Thirty-nine percent said they weren’t interested, the highest reading over the same period.
The decline in interest was probably due to “disappointing All Black performances this year, too much rugby and the duller, more attritional brand of rugby served up to fans in recent years,” UMR said in the statement. The poll was conducted from July 16 to July 20 and has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.
The 31-19 defeat to South Africa on Aug. 1 was New Zealand’s third loss in six Tests this year. It’s the first time the All Blacks, who have won almost three-quarters of their international matches, lost three Tests in a year since 2000.
Back-to-back losses to the world champion Springboks in South Africa also dropped the All Blacks from the No. 1 spot in the International Rugby Board’s rankings.
The All Blacks, seeking a fifth straight Tri-Nations title, have four points at the halfway stage of their campaign and next face Australia in Sydney on Aug. 22.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Monday called for New Zealanders to “rally around” coach Graham Henry and his squad.
“The team is going through a pretty tough time,” Key said in a radio interview with Newstalk ZB. “The team is rebuilding and unfortunately with teams you get that from time to time. The philosophical view I’ve taken is that as long as they win in 2011 at the Rugby World Cup then that’ll probably work for me.”
Interest in rugby peaked at 79 percent during the Rugby World Cup in late 2003 and has declined since, UMR said.
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