Thursday, 6 March 2008

In Pod we trust?

You may have noticed that I do tend to get a bit obsessive when it comes to the Six Nations and, in particular, the England rugby team's involvement. It's always been the case. The 1980 England Grand Slam season successfully whetted my appetite to such an extent that my expectations before each Five/Six Nations tournament have, ever since, always been huge, no matter how good, bad or indifferent the form of the English national team has been.

Inevitably, apart from a few isolated years, it all ends in disappointment and recrimination, but no matter how badly England play and no matter how humiliating the scorelines, my hunger for knowledge, opinion and banter about the team and the tournament knows no bounds. And with vast amounts of information available on the worldwide web, the last 10 years or so has meant that this hunger has been satisfied by feasting on what effectively is an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Furthermore, the increasing availability of broadband over the last 5 years has seen an increase in the video and audio content available - with the result that this Six Nations I expected great things from those producing such content and therefore set out in a quest to gorge myself on Six Nations podcasts.

First port of call was the official RBS Six Nations podcast. The podcast being official, I guess my expectations should not have been too high and, in that sense, it didn't disappoint. Very safe, very formulaic, very dull. The latest show features interviews with former Scotland skipper David Sole and former Italian skipper Alessandro Moscardi - who between them manage to contribute hardly anything of interest. The podcast is located in the "Fanzone" of the RBS official site which begs the question as to whether it might be a little more interesting to hear the views of the said fans? With a duration of about 20 minutes I'd say that, given the content, it was around 15 minutes too long!

So, with the official podcast out of the way, where else to turn? Well, one of my favourite websites,, has now launched a podcast service but boy, is it dull. Hosted by ex-Wales and Lions flanker, John "the Voice of ITV" Taylor, it's very safe, very grown-up and very, very boring. I don't know about you, but when I listen to the radio I expect to be challenged, to be engaged, to be entertained. I'm looking for robust opinion, for controversy, for laughs and for interactivity - what I'm not looking for is a bunch of more or less unknown journalists offering viewpoints which can best be described as banal at a pace which can only be described as funereal. If this is what the new ownership by ESPN has brought to the site then the future doesn't look great. And at about 45 minutes in duration it's ridiculously long - after 10 minutes I'd pretty much lost the will to live and simply gave up listening.

Moving on to something a little more positive, The Times Six Nations podcast actually borders on being entertaining. It's a little on the long side, and occasionally meanders a little and loses its way, but Mark Souster is a very good host and pulls together the team of Dean Richards, Jerry Guscott and the ever-forthright Stephen Jones with no lack of skill. The guests are all knowledgeable and opinionated and aren't shy in coming forward with their views and there's plenty of banter to provide moments of humour and entertainment. What it lacks is any interactivity with its listeners and it could do with being edited down a bit but is nevertheless worth a listen.

Another step in the right direction is the podcast provided by the Guardian (or the Grauniad, as Private Eye likes to call it). This half hour show is hosted by the Guardian's Ian Payne and this week features journalists Ian Prior and Claire Tolley with former Ireland captain Philip Matthews and former England hooker Steve Thompson also making a contribution. The show moves along at a nice pace, is fairly light-hearted and involves plenty of banter. It also has the sense to bring in some listener-participation with the panel giving their views on opinions expressed by contributors to the Guardian rugby blog. All in all it's a pretty decent effort.

Which brings me finally to the other broadsheet, The Daily Telegraph, which doesn't appear to have a general Six Nations podcast as such (or if it does, I'm buggered if I can find it). What it does appear to have is a regular audio interview with former Scottish captain David Sole (who seems to get everywhere). Not very exciting but at least they keep it short and sweet at 3 minutes.

What the Telegraph also has, of course, is Carling's Round - a video podcast featuring Will Carling, Ieuen Evans and Brian Moore (sitting in for Zinzan Brooke) with a comedic turn from the Alternative Rugby Commentary's Jed Thian. Last year Messrs Carling, Evans and Brooke all featured in an audio podcast, but this year we actually get to see them in all their glory over a pint at The Stage Door pub in London. Regular readers of this blog might recall that I have been known to feature Carling's Round from time to time and I must confess that yes, I am indeed a fan of the show. Some might find it a little too flippant and perhaps a degree of substance is sacrificed amongst the almost constant banter, but for me it does what it sets out to do - it entertains - and at around 13 minutes long there's very little waste.

All in all I was surprised at how little decent rugby audio content is out there in the ether. There's certainly a gap in the market for a well-produced, tightly-run show featuring hard-hitting opinion combined with banter, humour and audience participation and with a duration of under 20 minutes. It may be out there somewhere already, or perhaps I'm just going to have to invent it! :)


Nursedude said...

I think back to when I got the rugby bug as a college student in France back in 1982-when Ollie Campbell's boot led Ireland to the Triple Crown, when I got back to the States, it was very, very tough to get any type of rugby news. Fast forward to today, with Satalite channels like Setanta here in the US, internet sites like L'Equipe and Planet rugby and all of the blogs. Technology has really made it a lot easier to be a rugby fan now compared to the early 80's.

David said...

Plenty of good comment on Dawson's Radio Five podcast and the best is BBC Wales Scrum V's weekly round up. Stangely this is better than previous years!