A new addition to the off-field media contingent with the Irish squad since last Thursday in Quinta da Lago has been a three-strong team from Netflix who are shooting the streaming service’s new documentary series on the 2023 Six Nations to be aired before next year’s championship.
It comes as something of a surprise to learn that the series is understood to be worth a mere £700,000 (€794,054) in total to those involved, a sum which is to be shared equally between the six unions and federations, and the Six Nations shareholders CVC. This equates to €113,436 for the IRFU and each of the others.
This figure is set to rise for the second series covering the 2024 Six Nations to £850,000 (€964,209), which will amount to €137,744 for the IRFU and their fellow unions and federations.
Perhaps though the sums involved have also enabled the IRFU, and their counterparts, to have a bigger say in what access they grant to the six Netflix crews.
The crew travelling with the Irish squad in the Algarve will continue to have access to squad sessions and all manner of off-field activity throughout the championship, but not to the sanctity of either the dressing-room or the team room.
Whether the series can scale the heights of the Formula 1 Drive to Survive series is unlikely, but as the All Or Nothing series with Arsenal and others have shown, there should be enough material to make for an interesting watch.
That said, there is a widespread fear that the Netflix cameras cold become intrusive, a view Tadhg Furlong recently expressed.
“I’m not sure how much rugby IP I’d like to leak from the group, for normal reasons. I don’t know the full ins and outs of it. I couldn’t imagine it would be full open-door, I don’t see how that would work,” he said.
Warren Gatland has raised concerns about how the Netflix series might portray the sport, with early indications from their approach toward the Irish squad suggesting much of the focus will be on rugby’s uber physicality.
The Welsh coach expressed a commonly held view that some things are better kept away from the cameras when emotions are charged.
“I can tell you now that in a rugby environment, when you are talking about creating emotion, the language used isn’t always appropriate,” he warned. “Especially when you’re talking about nations playing each other.”
In preserving the sanctity of the dressing-room and team room, Andy Farrell and co evidently share such concerns. It appears that the Netflix crew have been regularly interviewing around eight or nine of Ireland’s playing and coaching staff, among them Peter O’Mahony and Keith Earls, and will ultimately focus on around four or so in the series. Farrell is apparently reluctant to have an overt presence and has sought to share the camera time with other coaches.
Speaking about their presence this past week, Tadhg Beirne said: “You just have to pretend they’re not there sometimes. It was a bit strange at the start but since then I think you just get used to it pretty quickly and it’s been all good so far.”
Netflix will present their final version of the series to the IRFU, and the other six nations, around August/September, something of an unwanted distraction when the focus of all six will be on the World Cup, before delicate negotiations in reaching an agreement on a final cut to be aired prior to next season’s Six Nations.