ITV’s coverage leaving viewers feeling rightly disgruntled

You only need to see our article which announced ITV’s coverage for the tournament, found here, to get the general idea of how their coverage of the Rugby World Cup has gone down so far. Despite that piece being published at the back end of July, we have received daily feedback from viewers on how the ITV crew have been performing. And it hasn’t exactly been positive…

First off let’s be clear, I’m not a huge fan of their coverage either. For big tournaments you need a star name commentator calling the shots, which was the reason why ITV loaned Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes out of their Sky contracts for the last tournament in 2007. Listeners appreciate a familiar voice calling the shots, be it Martin Tyler or Clive Tyldesley in Football, Martin Brundle for Formula 1, or Peter Alliss for Golf. Unfortunately for us, the main men are seemingly Martin Gillingham or Nick Mullins, who whilst perfectly capable and with a great knowledge of the game, do not offer that desired familiarity, and as a result the feedback towards them has been overwhelmingly negative.

Having said that, a commentating team is judged on the performances of both main commentator and pundit, and new to the punditry gig is former England captain Phil Vickery. Making his television debut, it’s a big ask for the Gloucester and Wasps stalwart to suddenly be broadcasting to a whole nation, particularly one that is easily frustrated by any of the Home Nations lack of attacking prowess. Many of you on here have highlighted his lack of impartiality when it comes to England playing, but this seems to be a problem for not just Vickery, but the commentators and particularly Steve Rider.

In fact, from a personal perspective, Rider’s presence is at the heart of ITV’s problem. A “utility presenter” much like John Inverdale, Rider has never presented rugby before on the channel, whilst Inverdale on the other hand can be found every year during the Six Nations, increasing his rapport with the television audience. It would have been better if ITV had put Craig Doyle in charge of the whole schedule, now that his transformation from the Holiday programme to Rugby presenter is complete following a couple of seasons of dedicated broadcasting of the Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup.

Upon unveiling their team for the Rugby World Cup, the most impressive part of ITV’s team were the pundits in the studio, and Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Lynagh and Francois Pienaar have proved as insightful and engaging as expected. Watching Gareth Thomas sat between Lynagh and Pienaar last Sunday morning made me feel nervous for the Welshman, but he held his own. The disappointments have been Thom Evans and Lawrence Dallaglio, Evans not proving as confident in front of the camera as expected given his boyband past and celebrity girlfriend, whilst Dallaglio has the tendency to say a lot, but making unclear points. The natural hope is that as the tournament progresses and ITV start their coverage in New Zealand, that the whole level of analysis will rise.

Improving the whole production would be helped though by cutting out the millions of adverts. Persistently cutting to breaks between anthems and then seemingly every 120 seconds during the half time interval and post-match analysis leaves the show feeling disjointed and cold. The choice to not show the opening ceremony was also a major disappointment, as ITV attempted to bundle introducing the competition and asking the pundits for their expectations at the same time as the seemingly spectacular show took place in Eden Park. This wasn’t the case for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, so why should it be now?

Viewers don’t want to be bombarded with statistics and trivia, they want genuine, impartial analysis of the game unfolding in front of them. Put like that, it sounds simple. At least for ITV, there is time to improve.

If you have lost your faith however, then fear not, there are alternatives:

TalkSPORT – working with our very own Nick Heath (RugbyMedia), TalkSPORT’s coverage is based out in New Zealand for the first time after winning the radio rights from BBC Radio 5 Live. With a commentary team compromising of the BBC’s favourite Brian Moore and former Wallaby legend David Campese, the analysis is as well informed as the trio of Lynagh, Fitzpatrick and Pienaar. Less of the information about who went to school with whose cousin, more on what is actually going on. 1089/1053am Radio and at

ARC Rugby – hilarious, but littered with expletives, the Alternative Rugby Commentary is broadcasted by the excellent Kiwi Jed Thian, whose Commandments for Rugby are a set to live by. Thian is also the philosopher behind such theories as the one that “The Blackness” captain Richie McCaw does not have blood pumping through his veins, but molten lava instead. Not for the easily offended. Definitely for those with a sense of humour.

by Ben Coles

37 thoughts on “ITV’s coverage leaving viewers feeling rightly disgruntled

  1. ITV has been a disaster.
    adverts alone have made me want to throw TV through window.

    It feels odd listening to the rugby without Barnsey or Miles.

    Steve rider, WTF?

    its diminishing the RWC for me, thankfully the rugby is good!

    1. ITV is a stain on sport.

      And anyone who thinks ‘Barnsey or Miles’ are a decent commentary team is obviously not a real rugby fan either. Miles is all that is bad about modern tabloid commentary.

          1. I know, my bad.

            i just dont take too kindly to people referring to me as “not a real fan” when i am an extremely passionate supporter and player of our brilliant game.

            Still, im sure Andy can come up with a better commentating alternative. (BTW bill maclaren is no longer with us.)

            And when the big games happen, barnes and miles really rise to the occasion. 1997 and 2009 lions series being 2 v good examples.

  2. Any negative comments regarding the ITV coverage must surely be tempered by the fact the fact that it is being broadcast ‘free to air’. The BBC never- seemingly- seriously did for the RWC so the only alternatives would be Sky or ESPN. That would deny a vast number of ardent rugby fans and those newly taking and interest in the game on live TV coverage. My other sporting passion is cricket and had made do with radio coverage and short ‘highlights’ on TV for the cricket world cup earlier in the year. Whilst I agree that the ITV coverage is far from perfect I am happy to take it ‘warts and all’.

    1. Lots of people tend to be forgetting that point – but well done for saying so, the coverage isn’t perfect – but at least ITV is free-to-air!

  3. The rugby ball in the intro segment logo seems to squirt out a bit of diahorrea at the bottom of the screen at the end. This set the tone perfectly for the coverage to follow.

    But like Iain above I am just grateful that the RWC is free to air.

  4. Talksport. TALKSPORT!!!!?????!!!!
    you must be kidding….. I listened the other day and all I kept hearing was’ you are watching this on talksport’??????

  5. Dreadful coverage by ITV. Woeful commentators ( you can put up with these people on the Prem highlights but not this) and as for the hideous Rider he is beyond polite words. It was a disgrace that they murdered the opening ceremony, but should we really be surprised? How long does their contract run for? Surely they cannot have it for the next one which will be bigger than ever being here. BTW, can’t agree with Jimmy above on Gomersall – found his delivery and comments annoying, and at least Phil V got as frustrated as the rest of us with England as the match went on.

  6. ITV and the RFU don’t get the importance of the World Cup. The RWC is a massive opportunity for collecting more support and interest. In 2003 the lead up program on the day of the final was 30 minutes! ITV still don’t get it.

    Most Football fans love the way in which rugby matches are refereed; mainly the respect for the ref. However many football fans don’t understand either the rules or tactics.
    The rules and tactics of rugby are complicated compared to football. So why haven’t either the RFU or ITV bothered to use their websites and Facebook pages to educate those who are interested but ill informed.

    This summer Teamsky ran the Tour de France live feed with constant links to a section on rules and tactics. I’ve followed the Tour since 1984. This year Sky did an awesome job in raising awareness and developing new fans. Teamsky used their Website and Facebook page to inform and educate their followers of a complicated sport. And Sky weren’t even showing the Tour!

    I feel ITV are just lazy. Its like they’ve got the rights and they really don’t care

  7. Most of the comments are spot on here. ITV should not have got the rights for this. To them it’s just another way of making loads of money from a disgraceful amount of adverts. But at the same time I am glad that it’s on ITV, because it means I can watch it at home, on the comfort of my sofa, with my son cheering on beside me (at 2 1/2 years old, he’s up quite early). Like many people I don’t have the luxury of ESPN or Sky Sports, and am happy it’s not on either of these channels.

    The question we should be asking is why are the BBC so tight these days that they are not willing to pay for the rights to show these major sporting events. The BBC are showing less and less live sport. Golf, Tennis, occasional Athletics and Horse jumping. I mean Horse jumping, come on! Maybe instead of criticisng ITV for doing a job (granted not the best job), we should be asking why the only channel our licence actually pays for, is not showing major sporting events such as this.

  8. In Ireland we have 3 options for Irelands games RTE, ITV & Setabta Sports

    ITV is the worst option by far. RTE free to view is just ok while our satellite sports channel Setanta are doing a fantastic job. Coverage is first class on an obvious small budget.

    ITV is the worst opti

  9. Because ITV are doing a terrible job? Anyone who has watched the six nations on the bbc and sky can clearly see how much more enjoyable, accessible and interesting their coverage is. It does however make me chuckle when they squeeze in a few ads between the national anthem and kick off. The amount of ads is way out of hand though, the opening ceremony was a mess of analysis, what to expect and actual footage of the event (which was very disjointed due to the constant cutting between studio, ads and the ceremony itself). I loathe the half time analysis and how rushed it is due to ad breaks, if the rugby was on at a later time, this would definitely be an excellent time to put some beers in the fridge. Alas, I’m not a person who can enjoy a beer at 8am. Does anyone else find lawrence’s analysis laughable? So many passing statements to cover broad areas of the game and he just seems to tumble along from one topic to the next. During the ireland game for example he was discussing the competition for the 2 shirt for ireland then vaguely trailed off and started talking about the scrum half. Just bores me if I’m honest. Its a lot more interesting when you have someone who is experienced at television analysis and knowledgeable about the game, analysing the finer details, such as how McCaw works his dark magic at the breakdown. Sometimes ITV try and rush through so much and bombard us with as much information as possible in such a short space of time, I feel like I have been visually assaulted. Just like watching an episode of Roobard and Custard.

    1. I want to know why when they squeeze in the ads between anthems and kickoff, they have to include an ad for ITV?

  10. Not the most important thing but a good example of the lazy cash cow approach to the rwc is the soundtrack album – its largely just a collection of the same songs as previous albums focusing on the top nations rather than taking the opportunity to use music from all participating countries, even to the point that Swing Low appears twice! Some songs are even lifted straight from the previous albums.

  11. ITV are shocking. Their programs/Commentary are basically England, England, England.
    Their coverage of the opening ceremony was terrible. Most of it was spent analysing England’s chances, while the ceremony could just about be seen through a window in the background. S4C however did a fantastic job (they concentrated on the ceremony & talked about the chances of ALL the home nations sides.

    I hope the next World Cup is covered by the BBC.

  12. To Cal

    ITV have got the 2015 rights as well.

    And Steve Rider did present the RWC in 2007, or am I thinking of Jim Rosenthal?

  13. Tried ITV payer again this evening. managed to avoid the scores all day at work and sat down in front of the PC, with beans on toast, to watch NZ v Japan on ITV player. 20 mins in it fell over. I have no re-loaded, re-booted, shouted, swore, eaten beans on toast, re-started my PC, had a coffee and decided it is not worth the hassle of trying to watch it. Off to watch Mock The Week on BBC player (which works fine!). Thanks ITV for ruining the world cup for me. There is only 1 World Cup, The Rugby World Cup.
    BTW where is the Russia v USA match on ITV player? It is on STV player but I cannot get it to play on there, it is totally missing on ITV player.
    Thanks again
    Hacked Off

  14. Is the commentary being done by somebody watching the match on a hand held black and white TV?
    Totally f%&Ki*g terrible!

  15. So disapointed once more with the coverage of ITV absolutley. No only provided absolutely no opening ceremony for us to watch without innane comments over it, but plack of post match interview pitch side …even of captains!
    Today’s France vs Canada game not one interview in New Zealand, only in-studio comments that seemed to have forgotten that France actually had an opponent…who after a very short turn around played well until total exhaustion overtook them allowing France to run in two quick trys in the last 2 minutes
    Thanks for nothing ITV

    1. I have been aghast at how poor the ITV commentary is for the Rugby World Cup. It was only in the 5th minute of England v Romania, Romania took a penalty that didn’t find touch and as England moved forward the commentator announced “England take the quick lineout”. It is like they are watching a different game.

  16. I am watching the England v Rumania game which is being spoiled by the inane commentary. I really want them to describe the action not witter-on about off-field points which would be of interest later but not during the game. Important game moments are regularly missed or ignored: line-outs won against the throw, big tackles etc. So frustrating, it’s spoiling the tournament for me.

  17. Please please when talking of the Canadian team call them CANUCKS with the UCKS as in DUCKS not nooks. As a Brit Canadian having lived in Vancouver the land of the greatest NHL Ice Hockey Team the “Vancouver Canucks” you pronunciation is very wrong and annoying.

  18. I cannot agree more with some of the awful commentary on ITV, they are an Andy Nicol away from a complete disaster!

    Two things annoyed me watching the USA Vs Italy game:

    1. The attempted try for Italy not given, where both commentators were whinging at the TV official going over it more than once when everyone could see the ball had either gone out of play or was knocked on.

    2. The main comentator describing Martin Castrogiovanni’s try as his 11th Cap.

    Poor, poor, poor, give The Rugby World Cup to The BBC.

  19. Incredible! Watching US verses Italy this evening and the commentators are mystified why the video ref is repeatedly reviewing an Italian try that quite evidently isn’t a try. It is obvious to anyone watching that he is trying to establish whether to recommend to the referee to award a line out or a five yard scrum after he doesn’t award the try. They keep saying, “It is obviously not a try. I don’t know why he keeps reviewing it….Oh look! they are showing it again!”. They seem to dig new, even deeper holes for themselves each time they open their mouths.

    If they don’t know what is going on, may be they should just keep quiet for a while. But like anyone who is a bit nervous and unsure what they are doing, they keep gabbling all the time, even over the top of the ref talking to the players. Most skilled commentators respect this as interesting actuality; far more interesting than their continual football-style superlatives.

  20. I have to say how irritating and irresponsible it is of Nick Mullins to keep informing the viewer of the previous games result. He surely must be aware of the probable need to record the 6am match prior to watching the more agreeable viewing time of the 8.30 match. He is forcing the viewer to pre-record both matches. He has spoiled each of the quarter finals for me.

  21. I’d like to remind the commentators and the pundits that soccer is the game where everyone whinges about the referee – gentlement, this is rugby – you play it to the whistle and the referee’s jugement is ALWAYS respected.and his decision is final. Please stop ranting on about it.

  22. I’d also like to mention that we’ll be doing an alternative commentary for the upcoming six nations. We usually do a weekly news podcast, but our love of rugby and displeasure at the quality of mainstream commentary has made us act.
    We’ll be closer to He’d than talkSport methinks.

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