The previous highest attendance for the first match of the 13-man game’s global showpiece was 41,000 back in 1995, when the World Cup was also held in the UK.
And the last time the tournament was staged – in Australia in 2008 – the opening match between England and Papua New Guinea attracted just 10,780 fans before New Zealand and Australia’s clash a day later saw 34,157 fans attended.
But there is early talk that tomorrow, and on traditional union territory, there will be closer to 50,000 fans cheering on the superstars of league in the Welsh capital.
An opening ceremony at 1.30pm will feature ex-players and Strictly Come Dancing stars Martin Offiah and Gareth Thomas who will be joined by their original ballroom partners Camilla Dallerup and Erin Boag.
There will also be a rendition of the national anthem by classical singer Camilla Kerslake.
After the smoke clears, England will take on favourites Australia at 2.30pm before Wales open up their campaign against Italy at 4.30pm.
While not a sell-out, Martin Johnston, from the Rugby League World Cup 2013, said ticket sales for month-long tournament’s opening salvo in Cardiff are in the region of the record-breaking figure they had hoped for.
He told WalesOnline yesterday: “In the last couple of days we have not been saying the overall figure – its quite a complicated thing and quite a big beast.
“We are certainly where we wanted to be. The aim was to be the biggest opening game of a rugby league World Cup and we are pretty close to doing that.”
Some supporters who have bought tickets for this weekend’s double header this week received emails informing them their tickets had been upgraded.
In the correspondence, fans were told: “To make this event even more special, we are pleased to inform you that we have upgraded your seat.
“All you need to do is go to the entrance shown on your current ticket, show the steward your ticket and we’ll do the rest.”
But Mr Johnston denied this was an indication sales hadn’t gone as well as planned.
“If that is the case, it would be a branding issue,” he said.
Aside from the Millennium Stadium, other venues that will be playing host to the tournament over the course of the next four weeks include Avignon and Perpignan in France, Limerick and Bristol.
Meanwhile Wales’ other group matches will see them travel to the Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium in Wrexham on November 3, where they will play the USA, and the Gnoll in Neath a week later to play the Cook Islands.
Mr Johnston said uptake on tickets in Wales, England, Ireland and France had been encouraging.
“We are close to a sell-out at quite a few grounds and we are selling certain blocks, people are trying to buy tickets for groups and realising they can’t get them,” he said.
Bringing the sport to a legion of new fans has been Rugby League’s mantra for many years.
Traditionally, it has been concentrated on the M62 corridor extending from Hull to St Helens and taking in places like Warrington, Salford, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds.
Mr Johnston says the sport has “moved away” from that in recent years, with a new bottom division side in Oxford this year, a new team in Hemel and community Rugby League in London said to be “doing really well”.
Nevertheless he says it is recognised the Rugby League World Cup 2013 has a “big job” in attracting fans, with semi-finals at Wembley and a grand final at Manchester United’s Old Trafford.
“There is 18% of tickets sold that have gone to fans who haven’t watched the game before,” Mr Johnston said.
“At Wembley, 60% of fans have never been to the Challenge Cup before who are going to the semi-finals.
“So we know we are attracting new fans and that’s one of the key aims of the World Cup.”
As well as Welsh fans getting a rare opportunity to see the sport up close and personal, Visit Wales and the Welsh Government have also thrown their weight behind the tournament as official sponsors.
Cardiff University expert on the economic impact of sport, Professor Calvin Jones, said the Rugby League World Cup is likely to generate “multiple millions” for the Welsh economy.
He said: “Especially with the high profile matches you’d expect the vast bulk of people in that stadium to be non-Welsh residents.
“That means two things – they’re more likely to stay in Cardiff. Obviously some will come down in coaches and go back the same day, but lots will be staying over and the second thing is that is all new money to Wales.
“It’s not money which would have been spent in Wales anyway – this is an event where had it gone somewhere else in the UK we would not have seen any of that money. It’s not like the Six Nations, which has to happen here anyway.”
Professor Jones said the “best case” scenario would see Cardiff match the £20m it earned from the Heineken Cup Final in 2011 when the average spend per spectator was around £300 for the game between Leinster and Ulster.
He added: “If you think of the Rugby Union World Cup back in 1999 that was about £40m to £50m pounds worth.
“Even if it’s a lot smaller than that, a Rugby League World Cup, albeit with only a few matches in Wales, is going to be multiple millions.”
Executive director of the Wales Tourism Alliance Adrian Greason-Walker added as long as the “package” around the event is right then the World Cup can leave lasting benefits.
He said: “It’s not just about the stadium providing the rugby match. It’s about the transportation here and making sure we have the quality of accommodation, which we do in Cardiff obviously.
“So that when someone first comes into contact with Wales, the experience of Wales right the way through matches up to the quality of the game that’s on offer as well.”
Mr Greason-Walker said in terms of maintaining Wales’s profile on the world stage, the games have a significance that goes beyond the immediate money they generate.
“It’s not just about the event on the day. It’s about keeping Wales up there – particularly on the European and the world stage these events are very important. It’s not just the direct benefits, it’s the indirect benefits.”
Former dual code Welsh international Brynmor Williams said the World Cup heightened the profile of the sport “immediately it was announced”.
Mr Williams, 61, who played league in the early 1980s for the now defunct Cardiff City Blue Dragons, said the sport is growing in Wales.
Though the Crusaders had a spell in Super League between 2009 and 2011 the side later went bust and its successor club – the North Wales Crusaders – now plays in the sport’s third tier alongside the South Wales Scorpions.
Mr Williams said: “I think it (the World Cup) is something sport lovers in Wales have looked forward to since Wales qualified a few years ago. You’ve got the South Wales Scorpions and the domestic leagues so the interest now is almost as great as it’s ever been because there’s more participation in the sport.
“When I played for Cardiff City Blue Dragons the only Welsh team was the Cardiff City Blue Dragons and the Welsh players playing up north. I think Wales is so full of sport-loving people that anything that is successful and entertaining will eventually get the following.”
But he believes the sport lacks a “big team” in Wales to generate interest in the game.
He added: “No new team has come into Wales and had sustained success and because of that the interest dwindles as it’s always trying to break new ground.”
Mr Williams said attempting to grow the game globally has to be the “bigger picture” for the sport.
“Italy beat England last weekend and suddenly there are emerging nations that once had no profile in rugby league. That result has been everywhere in the media and they (Italy) play Wales on Saturday so there’s a lot of conversation going on in the community and the interest is being created.”
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said hosting the tournament helped advertise Wales to the world.
“Wales will host five fixtures including the opening double headers of England v Australia and Wales v Italy on Saturday,” she said.
“Other fixtures span North and South Wales in order to spread the economic impact.
“The tournament as a whole, including the Wales fixtures, have been promoted by RLWC to Rugby League fans from all over the world.
“The Millennium Stadium also plays host to the official opening ceremony, which will be televised live, raising the profile of Wales to worldwide audiences and will be staged with a strong Welsh flavour and showcase a host of Welsh talent.”
Meanwhile David Cameron also gave his endorsement to the tournament.
The Prime Minister said: “After years of planning and months of build-up, the Rugby League World Cup is about to get underway and after over a decade away it is great to see it right back here in Britain once again.
“It is going to be a great tournament from Cardiff to Warrington, from St Helens to Bristol, we’re going to see the very best that Rugby League has to offer.
“It’s a real treat for seasoned fans but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to introduce new people to the sport with half a million people expected to go to a game over the next month.
“We’ve got a great month ahead so let’s all enjoy it.”