RWC 15: A couch potato’s guide to the Rugby World Cup

Before we know it the tournament will be over - so make the most of the feast on TV

This, as all TV slobs will readily attest to, is bad news. Not so much because we want all rugby all the time, you understand. It’s more that when you know there is a game every night, you don’t have to waste brain power wondering when the next one is.

This, as all TV slobs will readily attest to, is bad news. Not so much because we want all rugby all the time, you understand. It’s more that when you know there is a game every night, you don’t have to waste brain power wondering when the next one is.

 

Before we get on to what the Rugby World Cup will be as a viewing experience, it may serve us well to point out from the start what it will not be. It will not be the soccer World Cup. This is only worth mentioning because there’s already enough (almost certainly) false hope doing the rounds when it comes to the prospects of the Ireland team. It would be poor form for us to add to it in this context.

This observation has nothing to do with sportupmanship. Soccer is not better than rugby, nor rugby better than soccer, nor particle physics better than the collected works of Percy Bysshe Shelley. But let’s not kid ourselves here – last year’s soccer World Cup spoiled us all rotten.

Has there ever been a better scheduled event for the pitiable, downtrodden couch spud?

Three games a night. One at teatime for you to catch over a post-work jar. One at eight for you to watch with your dinner on your knee. One at 11, for you to turn down the lights and enjoy on your own while the poor saps who didn’t get it were in bed. Also – and this is key – games every day.

However much elbow grease the TV companies put into squeezing the bellows underneath this coming World Cup, it’s going to be a different experience altogether.

For a start, the Rugby World Cup is going to be a predominantly weekend affair. There will even be days when – brace yourself – there are no games.

This, as all TV slobs will readily attest to, is bad news. Not so much because we want all rugby all the time, you understand. It’s more that when you know there is a game every night, you don’t have to waste brain power wondering when the next one is.

After a soothing onslaught of eight matches in three days over the first weekend – including four on the Saturday – there’s a three-day break before the next game.

Three days! What that means is that if you dropped dead after New Zealand v Argentina on the Sunday – a just and righteous death, obviously, given the level of in-match snacking that precipitated it – your friends would have you waked, mourned, buried and toasted by the time Scotland v Japan comes around on Wednesday. Actually, come to think of it, maybe that’s the reasoning behind it. In a soccer World Cup, you’d be left to fester until the whole thing was over. Swings, roundabouts, etc.

TV 1

TV 2

TV 3

Second Captains

But enough complaining. God knows, there’ll be no shortage of it when the whole thing actually starts. In the coming weeks, you will hear two main gripes when it comes to the Rugby World Cup. You will be told there is too big a gap between the weak teams and the strong teams. Furthermore, you will hear it said that the tournament is too long. The only sane move is to disregard all such talk as either the keening of the drearily misinformed or the raving of the comically misled.

Here are some things to remember when it comes to these big quadrennial sporting events.

One – it doesn’t matter very much whether the games are actually any good or not. Certainly not as much as it matters that they are on. When you are sitting in your armchair growing ever-more bored of South Africa trampling over poor, plucky Japan, just remember that there are far worse things in life you could be actually bored doing. Shut up moaning and watch the rugby.

Seriously. All of the following exist in the world: chores, meetings, bills, annual reports, Mass, unmown lawns, friends with problems, friends without problems, unhung curtains, family, in-laws and paranoid intercounty managers (not to give you a window into a private hell or anything).

Literally nobody is making you watch the rugby. But in a world of total free will, you have the chance to do it ahead of attending to all that other stuff. Do you really want to spend your time coming up with pithy put-downs on Twitter about how only three teams can win it? This is no way to live a life.

Remember as well that every sport has hammerings. And every sport has an elite. Every sport has no-hopers. Every sport is overhyped. Every sport has jargon that sounds stupid in the real world. Every sport has a certain type of follower. Every sport has bandwagons.

Every sport goes on too long, hustles too much coin from its fanbase, cosies up too readily to sponsors, has complicated rules enforced by terrible officials, has spoofer pundits and irritating commentators and ad-ruined TV coverage that has been hashtagged to within an inch of its life. You have not just now discovered this ahead of everybody else.

This will be a curiously throwback World Cup in that a lot of us are reduced to just one channel to watch it on. Since the dawn of UTV Ireland earlier this year presaged the ethnic cleansing of the ITV channels from our UPC boxes, we are left with TV3 only. People who get their TV from a Sky dish can still access the English station but for the rest of us, it’s TV3 or bust. No slight on the good people out in Ballymount, obviously, but a little choice never hurt anyone.

The TV3 line-up is obviously pretty Ireland-centric, albeit with a few dashes from outside the island thrown in. Fronted by Matt Cooper, it has Keith Wood, Liam Toland, Matt Williams, Shane Jennings, Peter Stringer, Hugo MacNeill, Murray Kinsella, Neil Back and Stuart Barnes. Sinéad Kissane will be doing the reporting, Conor McNamara and Dave McIntyre the commentating. A touch of Gallic flair or Kiwi pragmatism obviously wouldn’t go amiss but otherwise it’s a pretty strong line-up.

On the face of it, the ITV panel looks to have had more imagination put into it but when you actually go down through it you find that essentially what they’ve done is take the BBC, Sky Sports and BT Sports teams and smoosh them together. John Inverdale and Clive Woodward hop over from the BBC, Jonny Wilkinson, Brian O’Driscoll, Lawrence Dallaglio and Craig Doyle chime in from BT Sport, Michael Lynagh and Sean Fitzpatrick slide across from Sky. It’s a rugger bloke milkshake.

That said, women’s World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi is part of the ITV line-up too. When you consider how rare it is for female pundits to get a crack at making it onto the couch to analyse mainstream men’s sport, ITV deserve a tip of the hat here. Fingers crossed they don’t now shunt her off to the wastelands of Tonga v Georgia or some such.

Parochially speaking, the Ireland matches are reasonably well stationed. The opener against Canada kicks off at 2.30 on a Saturday, with the rest of the pool matches down for 4.45 on the three following Sundays. October 11th, incidentally, has the potential to be either the best or worst day in Irish sport for quite a while – Ireland v France in rugby at 4.45, Poland v Ireland in soccer at 7.45. How else would do you propose to spend your day?

Frankly, how else do you propose to spend any day?

There will come an afternoon during the rugby World Cup where Canada and Romania are dropping passes and knocking on and kicking out on the full and you will think to yourself that there is surely something better you can be doing. When that happens, remind yourself of this one simple fact.

There will come a time – and it is but weeks away – where there will be no Rugby World Cup for you to watch. It will cease to be. It will expire and go to meet its maker, run down the curtain and join the choir invisible. It will be an ex-World Cup.

When that day comes and you’re off doing the stuff of life again, Canada v Romania won’t seem like such a grim day’s work.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.