If you need a reminder as to why you love all things rugby, forget about the six nations this weekend and just watch The Big Tackle with Austin Healey (Sunday, ITV4, 7:30pm).
Before players were allowed the luxury of being paid for doing what they loved, everyone was on an equal playing field, as amateurs. In clubs up and down the country the amateur ideals still remain: the camaraderie; the passion; the struggle to achieve victories on and off the field – it’s just that we don’t get to see them televised.
On this new ITV4 show to be screened after the Guinness Premiership highlights on Sunday, we get a glimpse of five clubs, all with different issues and different goals. The funny thing is, the clubs featured are the same as any one of your local clubs, it’s just the name and location that are different.
You’ll watch the first show and pick out the same characters at the “Bristol Barbarians” as you have wherever you play. You’ll recognise the struggle just to get people to turn out at training and you’ll have the same ambitions.
This production wouldn’t work with any old rugby crony at the helm. Picking up from his inspiring work on The Rugby Club with his “School of Hard Knocks” feature, Austin Healey shows a real passion for helping develop the grass roots game. Couple that with an astute wit and a genuinely charismatic personality and you have the ideal front man.
Austin digs out the real characters at the clubs and asks them all the right questions. They already know the answers it’s just that over time they’ve forgotten why they loved the game so much. A gentle reminder and a bit of a star-turn from some of Austin’s friends and the clubs are on their way.
At the end of the show, you, like me, will remember why you joined your rugby club (and if you’re not a member of a club you’ll want to get out there and join one!). You won’t be able to wait until the next time you can get down there and revel in the sheer rugby-ness of it all.
The Big Tackle is sponsored by O2 – click here for more information.