TV View: Scrambled rugby coverage had viewers tweaking their channels

The BBC and RTÉ similarly covered first pre-Rugby World Cup match

2015 Rugby World Cup Warm-Up Match, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales vs Ireland. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

2015 Rugby World Cup Warm-Up Match, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales vs Ireland. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

BBC Wales earned the ubiquitous 15-minutes of fame, certainly in an Irish context, as the rugby or sporting diaspora tuned into the complexity of unscrambling the signal to watch a rugby match.

Some umbrage was taken when it was confirmed that Ireland’s first Rugby World Cup warm-up match would not be available on RTÉ, Sky Sports or to UPC customers, and that Sky subscribers would have to fiddle with the settings.

The host broadcaster had technical difficulties in the first quarter of the match. It lost the ability to show replays and couldn’t display the match clock on screen. Once these were resolved, it was striking how formulaic the production values are, where the only thing that changes are the accents.

BBC Wales had an anchor, two recently retired internationals in Shane Williams and Martyn Williams, and one current international – Jonathan Davies, who will miss the World Cup due to injury.

Pitch-side

Six NationsIreland

Second Captains

RTÉ prefers to have its panel in the studio, but these days what’s common to terrestrial and satellite broadcasters is pre-match discussions presented from the sideline. This is supposed to give the coverage a more edgy, close-up feel.

In his usual seat as co-commentator was Jonathan Davies (not the injured one but the former Welsh rugby union and rugby league international known as “Jiffy”). There was a familiarity in tone and content as Davies parsed most aspects of the game from a Welsh perspective first and foremost.

Slanted commentary

Phil KearnsWallabies Rugby ChampionshipNew ZealandHugh CahillRalph Keyes

The nature of the game, taken in the context of the teams selected and the timing of the match relative to the start of the World Cup, meant that criticism was couched in gentle terms. Understandably. After all, the injured Jonathan “Fox” Davies wasn’t about to get stuck in verbally to his own erstwhile teammates.

Ireland’s 35-21 victory meant that the RTÉ highlights package on Saturday night took on a more positive hue than the Welsh discussion. Ronan O’Gara and Shane Horgan are both well informed and articulate. They examined the individual and collective components of the performance – with one notable exception.

Jackson makes his case

Paddy Jackson

Who better then to talk about Jackson’s performance than one of Ireland’s greatest outhalves. O’Gara? However, the question never came up, which was hard to fathom and a rare misstep in the coverage.

In the land of the formulaic, genuine insight is king.

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