Trends & Features

Rugby tops football search online

There were more UK internet searches for the term ‘rugby’ than the term ‘football’ for the first time in two years following the England rugby team’s semi-final victory over France, according to Hitwise, an online intelligence service.

There has been a six-fold increase in the number of UK internet searches for ‘rugby’ since the World Cup started at the beginning of September, and for the week ending October 13 there were 10 per cent more searches for ‘rugby’ than ‘football’. The official Rugby World Cup homepage ( received 44 per cent of the traffic from the term ‘rugby’, while the Planet Rugby portal ( was the second most popular site.

Jonny Wilkinson is the most popular England player online. Twenty-seven per cent of UK internet users searching for ‘Jonny Wilkinson’ went to Wikipedia, while the second highest traffic recipient was Women Republic (

Says Robin Goad, research director of Hitwise UK: “Wilkinson’s appeal with female fans is clear: the proportion of female visitors to rugby sites has increased from 41 per cent before the World Cup to 44 per cent during the last four weeks, while the terms ‘Jonny Wilkinson pictures’, ‘Jonny Wilkinson topless’ and ‘Jonny Wilkinson girlfriend’ all appear in the top 10 searches containing the words ‘Jonny Wilkinson’.”

Despite the massive growth in searches for ‘rugby’ as a result of the World Cup, overall football remains the most popular sport in the UK.

“There were over eight times as many UK internet visits to football sites compared with rugby sites, despite the World Cup boost,” says Goad. “The loyalty of football fans at the club level ensures it remains the most popular sport in the UK. Three of the top five football sites in the UK are club homepages, while the rugby category is skewed in favour of international sites, which are more prone to fluctuations based on seasonal factors and the success of the UK national teams.”

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