Rugby World Cup 2015 is here

When the World Cup comes around every 4 years, the excitement can be slightly dampened when we remember it is ITV who have the television coverage rights.

We have all become accustomed to watching most of our rugby internationals on the good old BBC, who for all their faults (not everyone loves Jeremy Guscott and Jonathan Davies), give most of us a feeling of ‘being at home’ with the coverage. Sky, and latterly BT Sport have changed the dynamics of the way game is covered. They have added more tinsel to the Christmas tree and provided a depth of analysis which the BBC does not, and that has been good to see. They also have those annoying half-time interviews with breathless players. But ITV…..well it’s rather like having to go to a stranger’s house for your Christmas lunch once every 4 years, when you would rather just stay at home.

ITV launched into coverage of the event with Paloma Faith’s murderous version of “World in Union”, and the star-studded array of pundits will have taken one last look at their well-prepared notes, which were doubtless filled with a multitude of stats, facts and clever one-liners.

ITV are determined to make their coverage a success, they will be sharing the 6 Nations championship with the BBC from 2016, so they need to prove their worth. To this end, they have unashamedly pulled out some big guns (most of them borrowed from other channels). John Inverdale was our lead presenter for the opening game, with analysis in the studio provided by Sir Clive Woodward, Lawrence Dallaglio and Jonny Wilkinson. So far, so England.

In the commentary box we had BBC and BT regular Nick Mullins assisted by even more England world cup winners in Ben Kay and Dallaglio (again), and finally on the touchline stood Martin Bayfield towering over the diminutive Jason Robinson who must have a right pain is his neck. And finally there was – wait for it – Francois Pienaar; our token voice looking in from an independent point of view. Representing Fiji perhaps? Needless to say he was given very little air time.

With the host nation kicking off the competition, it can come as little surprise that ITV filled our front rooms with retired England internationalists, but it did feel at one point that the entire 2003 world cup winning team might appear in camera shot. There was little sense of neutrality for a show which was of course beamed out beyond the borders of ‘England’s pleasant pastures’. There was much experience in the punditry line up, much knowledge to share with an audience just waiting to be fed a meal of intellectual wisdom from on high. However, Inverdale duly informed us that there will be many viewers new to rugby and therefore they would have to explain why England were awarded their first half penalty try;

“What on earth was going on there Clive?” he asked. Rarely will Sir Clive have had to provide such a simplistic answer, who’s answer seemed to be that a Fijian got “their body under the ball”.

The commentary team generally worked well together, although Nick Mullins has an annoying habit of giving us a snippet of information on every player when he touches the ball for the first time. As a result on several occasions he lost track of the unfolding action of the game. There is nothing worse than listening to a commentator who is trying desperately to catch up. We hear his voice shift from the steady tempo of providing background information, to the elevated and excited tones of a great try scoring opportunity, and all within half a second. I find myself telling him just to “watch the game!”

Also Mullins did himself no favours when he referred to Fijians back home watching the game, as being “around one television hoping the generator doesn’t fail them”. Nick may be getting a ticking off for that one!

The opening game itself was a huge physical battle and much of it was error strewn. It was ignited on 27 minutes when our old pal Niko Matawalu broke from the base of a scrum and ran close to 50 metres before appearing to touch down for a try. Referee Jaco Peyper awarded the score, only to refer to the TMO as a result of several big screen replays which he happened to see just before the conversion was taken. Jonny Wilkinson was spot on when at half time he said that there needs to be some protocol around just how far back a decision like this can be made. Woodward asserted that if even though it wasn’t a try, it should have stood. And although Fiji scored only 2 minutes later, the game in general was littered with too many TMO decisions. Things began to drag.

With so many familiar faces and voices from the BBC, Sky and BT Sport, I was starting to forget that it was ITV who were broadcasting, but then……half-time came around, and we were all invited to enter a phone in competition to win tickets, laptops and £2,000 amidst a flurry of ads. All we had to do was phone a number and we could be one of the lucky winners. At this point, I may as well have been watching X Factor.

Despite some panicked voices in the commentary team when Nadolo blasted through at least 3 English tackles with the score at only 18-8, England eventually delivered their bonus point victory. It was fitting that the TMO had the final word of the game when he confirmed that Billy Vunipola had managed to dot the ball down on the whitewash. And that was it, England 35 – 11 Fiji. The game never quite lit the touch paper as we hoped it would, and England will move on from this potential banana skin and look ahead to the next game against Wales which will demand an improved performance.

As for ITVs performance, well it fell way short of the glitter and depth which Sky and BT Sport provide. It was safe but unspectacular. Perhaps it is a compliment though to say that the coverage was not as bad as I feared it might be. At the end of the first evening’s entertainment and with 6 weeks to come, there is still some scepticism that that despite inviting everyone over for lunch, ITV still don’t really believe in Christmas.

Ratings

For a bit of fun, here are my ratings for those who were on show;

John Inverdale (5) – solid and reliable, but as exciting as an actuaries night out. Looking forward to seeing Craig Doyle have a crack in this position.

Clive Woodward (6) – has been there and done it, but can’t help feeling he knows this, and dominates the conversation with a hint of smarm. His comment about fancying Watson one on one against Nadolo was way off the mark.

Lawrence Dallaglio (5) – didn’t really add anything of great value to the discussion.

Jonny Wilkinson (8) – talks with authority and in a way which makes you feel he’s in the dressing room with the players. Relevant, recent and appears to know his stuff.

Martin Bayfield (7) – competent as a presenter.

Jason Robinson (6) – didn’t feature much. Please give him a step to stand on next time.

Francois Pienaar (6) – never got a look in, but liked his comment about their opening game in the 1995 World Cup “the testosterone was bouncing off the walls and the roof”.

Nick Mullins (4) – he’s no Bill McLaren, struggling to keep up with the action, and verging on being disrespectful to the Fijian nation.

Ben Kay (7) – finds it difficult to remain impartial, but is detailed in his analysis of the game and cuts in with good observations.

11 comments on “Rugby World Cup 2015 is here

  1. Allan on

    Dallaglio’s literrally rose tinted view of the game really grated on me. Wilkinson was well worth a listen, very astute and fair and reminds me of Mikey Blair who is also a great reader of the game and knows how to communicate it clearly for the viewer. Mullins is an utter twat, end of. Saving grace is no Guscott or Davies on ITV.

    Pity today we had to put up with Scott “very much so” Hastings. Enthusiastic but just a cliche ridden drivel machine.

  2. John Mc on

    Match-wise, as opposed to ITV coverage-wise, a bit of a wake-up call for England squad and supporters. On last night’s form they will be hard pressed to beat Wales and will lose to Australia. I’m sure they will improve.
    And as for the Twickenham fans, well what can you say? 35k who understand the game and respect the opposition. 35k more on corporate tickets who haven’t a clue about what’s going on and who sing ‘Sweet Low’ while the Fijians are doing their haka. Actually, I feel sorry for the many England rugby fans who must have been embarrassed by the prawn sandwich brigade’s disrespect and general numptiness.

  3. bulldog on

    Well written article and a good read ,points well made, thank you, really enjoyed it. Jonny Wilkinson is a throughly decent bloke and that comes through in every walk of his life, so why would we not listen. Pienaar is also a great man who has come through so much winning the world cup and his connections to uniting South Africa , how could you not find him engaging. Maybe you need to have been to SA to understand it all , however, for me , Pienaar was the perfect leader and you would sign up to go to war with him in a heartbeat.

    Shame that , I cannot say the same of that bully, Martin Johnson thank goodness they have not wheeled him out. I have to say the matawalu try was given and the ref should have dealt with that differently, I for one did appreciate Sir Clive and JW being candid on that point.

    It is what it is , this far for me , the rugby is doing the talking and fair play to our near neighbours, great stadia, great atmosphere and making the use of the whole country.

  4. bulldog on

    Right where in this blog can we get some dialogue about banning the pipes from the ground. A disgrace. Removed as they might spoil the enjoymnet of others.

    An instrument (not a kids toy) that takes years to master, a symbol of our nation, the pipes that British , not just Scottish regiments have taken into war for generations. The RFU are not on, they are as cultural to us as the Haka is to the all Backs?

    Where will it stop ! I find nothing spoils my enjoyment more than a bunch of drunks singing the chorus to a hymn about the river Jordan. What on earth has that got to do with England’s green and plesant land.

    But seriously , we must complain about this one.

    • Angus on

      What about a mobile with a docking station speaker system? That would fit in a backpack or even a sporran, be unlikely to be stopped at the gate and could be cranked right up while easily hidden

      Was surprised to hear the english in the crowd singing chariots last night when england weren’t playing. Looking forward to them trying that at a Scotland game

      • Bulldog on

        Good try with the doc station. Battery power versus lung power of a drammie fueled jock, there can only be one winner. I do not want to ruin the quality of this blog however it would be helful if we knew the strength of feeling among bloggers and how we could make our protests known.

        Yep Bag gate has arrived at the RFU.

    • FF on

      Nothing to do with the RFU, it is World Rugby rules and they were in place in 2011 too. Apparently brought in to preclude a vuvuzela crisis!

      • Bulldog on

        Thank you for the detail , always good to be accurate. Well World Rugby got it wrong IMO.

        However the orgnisation that banned it is not actually the point of the post, that is almost , not entirely, irrelevant.If i were wishing to mount a campaign , which clearly there is no appetite for , it would be relevant. However that was not the purpose of the post.

        I also understand the crisis that brought it in and my post is implicit if not explicit that I understand (reference to a kids toy).

        It was a bit fun to make a point, and was relevant . The point of the post was ascertaining if the posters felt the ban was justified and obtain general feedback and inject a bit of humour.

        To date Angus commented in the spirit of the original posts which tickled my sense of humour and you have kindly provided further details and editorial accuracy.

        Do you have an opinion on whether the ban on Bagpipes is justified or not ? As most have been silent , I have got my answer, silence is consent/agreement in my book.

        I assume you consider it is justified, or it is their (WR’S) business or any other symptom resulting in ‘just do not care enough to comment’ or not bothered, or good old ‘whatever’ , however if my perception is flawed, let me know.

  5. John Mc on

    Nearly five days after England’s exit from the RWC, Radio 5 Live rugby continues the protracted and gruesome post-mortem of England’s demise, with little or no discussion about the teams – especially the three British/Irish teams – that are still in the competition. Probably to be expected in a United Kingdom of 60m in which 50m are English. But it is a bit of a bore now and I wonder when more focus on the here and now and the future of this RWC will feature in the coverage?

    • Bulldog on

      I suppose they had hoped to fill these spots with build ups to the knockout stages, I can understand some of this but like you, it is old news now.

      I think what they should be doing is getting behind all the teams that remain in the tournament and maintain the motivation for it.

      I think it is a great, well set up tournament and I am throughly enjoying it. What we do not want to see is empty terraces in the final stages and they should be be doing is building an atmosphere to maintain uk interest in the tournament and get the fans in, even if they are not going to see England.

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