Is it just me, or was there a distinct lack of social media buzz around the recent Rugby World Cup? 

The combined total social media engagements of the 15 most popular players was only 6.9m. For context, Swiss superstar Alisha Lehmann alone amassed 22.1m engagements at the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup.

While there could be many reasons for this, a key issue is undoubtedly World Rugby limiting the use of match footage on social media. This approach definitely hindered viral moments, organic reach and – perhaps more importantly – it angered a lot of fans.

In a time when rugby desperately needs publicity and to grow its fan base, such an approach is stunting the growth of potential new audiences.

Nonetheless, we’ve crunched the numbers and identified the 15 players who racked up the most social media engagements during the tournament…

#15 – Ange Capuozzo (ITA)

Although Italy bowed out in the pool stages, Capuozzo – Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2022 – fired both on pitch and online.

His best-performing post focused on his first ever World Cup game and first World Cup try to give Italy their first win. With so many firsts, it’s no wonder the post accrued 54k engagements!

#14 – Kazuki Himeno (JPN)

Japan – 2019 hosts – unfortunately suffered an early exit, but captain Himeno still managed to rack up quite a few impressive engagements.

X was the top platform for Japan’s Number 8 as he posted several popular post-match reflections. The one with the highest engagements (54k) was a heartfelt message to fans when his team’s part in the competition ended, expressing gratitude for their support and affirming Japan’s continued quest for World Cup glory.

#13 – Damian Penaud (FRA)

The first from the host nation to make the Top 15, all Penaud’s engagements (284K) were on Instagram.

The majority of his posts were of on-pitch images thanking French fans for their support. His best-performing post (86k engagements) reflected on France’s 1-point loss to South Africa in the quarter-final.

#12– Ardie Savea (NZL)

Although he missed out on the Webb Ellis Cup, Savea won big at the 2023 World Rugby awards (Men’s Player of the Year) and enjoyed success on social, particularly Instagram.

His most prominent post (69.6k engagements) featured on-field photos as he celebrated New Zealand’s victory over Ireland in the quarter-final, accompanied by a caption expressing gratitude to Jesus for the win.

#11– Beauden Barrett (NZL)

Another Kiwi to make the cut, Barrett captivated fans with multiple carousels featuring a mixture of friends, family and rugby content.

His best-performing post showcased him with France’s Matthieu Jalibert (a collaboration with France Rugby after the All Blacks suffered their first ever World Cup pool stage defeat).

#10 – Matthieu Jalibert (FRA)

Talking of Jalibert, the Frenchman also claimed a spot in our Top 15 with his on-field action shots posted on Instagram.

Interestingly, his top post (99k engagements) was a two-picture carousel that included the same picture of himself and Beauden Barrett. Clearly the fans loved it!

#9 – Johnny Sexton (IRL)

Ireland’s heart-breaking quarter-final defeat marked the final match in green for Sexton, the country’s captain and record points scorer.

It comes as no surprise that his best-performing post concerned his retirement. In the Instagram carousel highlighting key career moments, Johnny conveyed his emotions on Ireland’s World Cup loss, expressed gratitude to those who had supported him throughout his journey, and shared his aspiration that he’d inspired a nation.

#8 – Rieko Ioane (NZL)

The third (and last) New Zealander on the list is Ioane, whose engagements all came from a combination of rugby and lifestyle Instagram posts.

He posted multiple carousels exploring Paris, plus a controversial post touching on his heated exchange with Johnny Sexton following New Zealand’s win over Ireland. Interestingly, the post that received the highest number of engagements was captioned “balance” and featured a handful of fun training/match-day moments from his World Cup journey.

#7 – Peter O’Mahony (IRL)

O’Mahony boasts not only a wealth of experience with the Irish team but appears to be a seasoned Instagram user as well (251k followers).

Throughout the World Cup, he shared a substantial amount of family-related content, including posts celebrating his 100th cap, featuring images of loved ones, and discussing his efforts to inspire children to take up rugby. His most popular post, however, was a picture of the Irish forwards after their win against reigning champions South Africa.

#6 – Charles Ollivon (FRA)

Ollivon’s behind-the-scenes warm-up and training content became a regular feature on Instagram, X and Facebook and helped earn him a Top 15 spot.

Unsurprisingly, it was an Instagram Reel of his try against Namibia that picked up most engagements (90.8k). Just imagine what the results could have been if players and fans had been able to share more of these…

#5 – Keita Inagaki (JPN)

Inagaki gained most engagements on Instagram (340.4k) followed by X (116.3k).

Like his teammate Himeno, he posted a message of gratitude to his fans for their support during the tournament; this received the highest number of engagements on both platforms.

#4 – Siya Kolisi (RSA)

Next up is Kolisi, who captained the Springboks to two back-to-back World Cup victories, earning them the title of “most decorated team in Rugby World History”.

Kolisi has become a South African icon and is widely regarded as one of rugby’s all-time greatest leaders, so it’s somewhat surprising that he comes in at number 4. Nevertheless, his Instagram following of over 1m ensured a significant number of engagements.

Most of his posts pictured himself, his family, and Bible verses. His best-performing post (325k engagements) was a two-picture carousel of his World Cup victories in 2019 and 2023, with a focus on the wrist strapping that read “Jesus.”

#3 – Cheslin Kolbe (RSA)

From his world-class penalty charge down against France to his error in the World Cup final which left him spending the game’s closing minutes on the sidelines, South Africa’s Kolbe was no stranger to dramatic incidents at this World Cup.

His most popular post (197k out of a total 518k engagements) was a carousel of action shots from the Boks’ thrilling win against France. His other posts, as with Kolisi’s, were often family pictures.

#2 – Joe Marler (ENG)

Marler stands out as one of the biggest personalities in both the England team and the global rugby community.  He posted on Instagram more than any other player during the tournament and gathered over 470k engagements on TikTok.

His content was incredibly varied and included clips from his podcast The Joe Marler Show, on-field moments, behind-the-scenes clips with the England team, and funny memes. Marler’s most popular post was on TikTok (124k engagements) when he spoke about his cushioned header-assist try against Japan.

#1 – Antoine Dupont (FRA)

And finally, to the poster boy of French rugby – considered by many to be the best rugby player in the game today – stands head and shoulders above the rest of the Top 15 with over 3.2m engagements.

Although the French captain didn’t manage to lead his team to World Cup glory on home soil, his social media presence was unmatched – the only player on the list to achieve success on all four platforms.

His top post was on Instagram (519k engagements). It addressed the serious jaw fracture injury he sustained while playing against Namibia and expressed his determination that “the show must go on”.

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