Rugby World Cup TV View: Tommy Bowe every bit as ruthless as the All Blacks
‘Kiwi commentary is the best commentary. The sense of superiority is constant and absolute’
New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams stretches to score the All Blacks’ third try during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match against Canada at the Oita Stadium. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images
Day 13 of the Rugby World Cup. To which the obvious reaction can only be – hang on, are you certain it’s only Day 13? Wasn’t Ireland’s win over Scotland, like, two months ago? How can we have gone through the full gamut from nervous to worried to hopeful to confident to smug to complacent to doubtful to despairing to bruised to fatalistic to here in just 13 days?
“Remember, we will be showing what is now a crucial game for Ireland against Russia tomorrow,” says Tommy Bowe on Eir Sport in the build-up to . Yowza. That’s some roller-coaster carry-on right there. The awesome ability of those involved in rugby coverage to come up with new and confusing phrases has been well explored at this point but even so, nobody imagined “what is now a crucial game for Ireland against Russia” to find its way into the lexicon.
Anyway, here we are, on Day 13. Which means there are 31 days to go. Essentially, we are just over a quarter of the way through. Presumably, that means that by the time the final comes around, Boris Johnson will have upped his offer to eight borders across 16 years and shared access to the Isle of Man or something.
Today’s turkey shoot was New Zealand v Canada. Eir’s commentary feed for the morning was an all-Kiwi affair. If you weren’t big on your accents and you couldn’t tell straight away their exact leanings, the fact that they started frothing over the energy the All Blacks put into the Haka pretty much gave it away. “It was fast, it was intense,” said Andrew Mehrtens, the one-time prince of All Black outhalves now apparently reduced to Strictly Ceremonial Dancing judge.
Kiwi commentary is the best commentary. The sense of superiority is constant and absolute. Who could ever forget the on-air reaction in 2002 when an Irish side full of piss and vinegar battered the New Zealand line in the opening stages of their first Test in Carisbrook, ending with Brian O’Driscoll sitting back into the pocket and kicking a drop goal?
“Uh, er, okay...” came the call from the genuinely baffled New Zealand commentator. “They’ve, um, they’ve kicked a drop goal there and it’s, er, Ireland 3 New Zealand 0.” It was Mehrtens himself who kicked an All Blacks penalty two minutes later, while the commentator gathered himself, still stunned at the idea that a team playing the All Blacks would take a drop goal instead of probing away from a try.
Spin the tape onwards by 17 years and the song remains pretty much the same. Straight from the kick-off, the All Blacks poured into the Canadian half and were right on the tryline within the first 50 seconds. Referee Romain Poite called a New Zealand scrum and the two packs crouched and set and fell in a heap, leading not to one reset but two. “The Canadians are bit frisky early on here!” ho-hoed Scotty Stevenson over it.
The friskiness lasted all of three minutes, with Poite awarding a penalty try after a fairly egregious Canadian steal coming in from the side. And by the time Sonny Bill Williams reached for the third try on 16 minutes, all Canuck friskiness had long since been extinguished.
Half-time, 28-0. Game over, bonus point up, time for the Eir lads to earn their corn. Tommy, Peter Stringer and Jerry Flannery gave it a go but there’s only so much to say. “God love the Canadians,” said Tommy at one stage. “Is there much they can do here?” There wasn’t.
At one point, Flannery launched into an explanation of why the All Blacks are so good. It came down to the fact that they weren’t pigeon-holed as youngsters. “If you take a talented kid here, they basically play the same position all the way up. If a kid is playing 10 at 12 years of age, he’ll still be doing it at 20.
“Whereas in New Zealand, they move them around a lot more. Go through their forwards and you’ll find that some of them definitely played at 10 when they were kids. It means that they’re all multi-skilled and comfortable on the ball.”
It was an interesting thesis, albeit a teensy bit undercut by Tommy using it to take a slice out of Stringer in the chair next to Flannery. “Pete never really had much of a choice in the matter,” he smiled at the little lad. Cold, Tommy. Why you gotta go there?
Full-time, 63-0. Another day down, another morning’s content filled. Over to you, Tommy.
“Let’s look back at the highlights from last Saturday where the shamrock wilted and the Cherry blossomed...”
Christ. At least someone in Eir had a sense of humour about the whole thing. The music played over the highlights of Ireland’s defeat to Japan? No Doubt’s 1995 chart-topper, ‘Don’t Speak’.