Spectators arriving for a men’s rugby match between Australia and New Zealand at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia.Credit…Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

For one night only, the combined interest of the World Cup co-hosts Australia and New Zealand coalesced on Australia’s most hallowed sporting arena, the Melbourne Cricket Ground. But the game on Saturday night was not soccer. It was rugby being played at the same time.

In front of a crowd of more than 75,000, the men’s rugby teams of Australia and New Zealand renewed their rivalry by competing in the latest installment of two-game, home-and-home series that dates back more than 90 years.

That the game took place during the Women’s World Cup, simultaneously with matches in other cities and two days before Australia’s must-win match against Canada, highlighted the competition that women’s soccer faces to attract interest and audience in the two sports-mad countries hosting soccer’s biggest showcase.

There were attempts to entice the rugby crowd during the game for fans to attend local World Cup games, which were being held in a stadium just yards away from Melbourne Cricket Ground. Digital advertising boards periodically flagged the dates of the tournament and a link to where tickets could be purchased.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground alone predicted more than 220,000 people would pass through its doors across three days, according to data provided by the stadium’s owner, as part of a run of games that started with its hosting what is considered to be the biggest rivalry in Australian domestic sports, a meeting between the Australian rules football teams Carlton and Collingwood on Friday night, and that will end on Sunday with a third spectacle, another Australian Football League game.

Soccer, though increasing in popularity, languishes well behind sports played with an oval ball, a legacy of the past and migration patterns, according to one expert on Australian sports.

“Given that it was colonized by the British you’d have thought soccer would be the dominant code, but it’s not,” David Rowe, a professor for culture and society at Western Sydney University.

On Saturday, Melbourne’s airport was bustling with fans arriving from other parts of Australia to witness the first installment of the yearly rivalry in which New Zealand’s team, known as the All Blacks, arrived as the overwhelming favorite to retain the title it has held for two decades. The return game across the Tasman Sea takes place next week in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, inside a stadium that has struggled to attract fans to World Cup soccer matches.

Decisions over the World Cup’s television coverage in Australia have been questioned already, and they are likely to face scrutiny again on Saturday night as one of the tournament’s most anticipated group games, an encounter between France and Brazil, kicked off 15 minutes after the start of the clash between the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

Only one of those games was being broadcast on a free-to-air network in Australia. The answer will not please soccer fans.