Paul Williams (Pontypool Cup Programme Notes)
A World Cup TV overdose
OK, so it would be practically impossible to stick with tradition on this page and write a piece welcoming Pontypool to the Talbot Athletic Ground this afternoon without repeating verbatim what appeared in this space exactly a week ago, so the customary niceties I would suggest are taken as read as we move onto another subject that is very much in the minds of rugby supporters… The Rugby World Cup. Specifically the television presentation of the Rugby World Cup, which is the means by which the vast majority of us follow the four-yearly feast of international rugby.
I read an article in the media this week proclaiming that S4C’s coverage of the event was far superior to that provided by ITV. In it, the author listed eight reasons why this is the case, with the vast majority being the personnel involved (the exception being that ITV use “ridiculous” lecterns that look as though they were stolen from a political debate).
I will state here that viewing of the event in our family has tended to be via the ITV service, but I will see the author’s mention of “Sir Clive Woodward droning on about 2003” and raise him the appalling lack of balance on show, with the three-man punditry panel consisting of the aforementioned Sir Clive along with Messrs Dallaglio and Wilkinson whenever England are involved. Other countries, Wales included, have the likes of Sean Fitzpatrick, Brian O’Driscoll, Bryan Habana and numerous others bringing their unbiased, objective and informative viewpoints to the viewing public.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have many English friends and a fair percentage of my ancestors hailed from points east of Offa’s Dyke, but is it really that difficult for ITV to understand that the United Kingdom is home to four indigenous nationalities? Sitting at home with one eye on the coverage of the recent England-Argentina clash while I was going about some or other business, my ears were suddenly filled with a sound that made me wonder whether I had fallen asleep for a few weeks and awoken just as England had won the World Cup. Not the 2003 one, I hasten to add, but this current 2023 tournament. As it turned out, the loud hyperbole emanating from the direction of the TV was the result of George Ford kicking a drop-goal in a match that was in fact wearing on like an old sock. Cue the half-time break, and there they were, the Woodward-Dallaglio-Wilkinson triumvirate, all enthusiastically out-hyping one another as though their lives depended on it.
Worse was to follow… play resumed after the half-time break, and Manu Tualagi tackled an opponent. “Manu Tualagi – destroyer of worlds!” roared the commentator (it was either Nick Mullins or Miles Harrison – I’m not certain which).
I could take no more of it. I reached for the remote control and switched off the TV.
Thankfully down here in the real world of Welsh club rugby we manage, with a minimum of effort, to maintain a grip on reality. Today the second arrival of the Pooler faithful in as many weekends is all we need to maintain our enthusiasm for the sport that has been at the heart of our communities for longer than anyone can remember. The real rugby supporter doesn’t need ridiculous hyperbole to fuel his or her enthusiasm – an hour and a half or so standing in the wind, rain or sunshine (and sometimes all three) followed by a drink or two and a chat in a welcoming clubhouse is all we need to keep us coming back, week after week, season after season.
I would like to close by wishing Aberavon club captain Joe Gage a speedy recovery, particularly as I may have jinxed him by writing a congratulatory piece about him on social media recently. It seems the initial indications are that the injury he sustained last week is less serious than first thought.
Enjoy the game.