TV3 ready to scrum with RTE as it unveils its new-look rugby panel

By Laura Larkin

RTE may traditionally be the home of Irish rugby but TV3 is gearing up for a record-breaking World Cup this summer.

The Ballymount broadcaster secured the rights to show the tournament, outbidding the state broadcaster, and pledged to 'freshen things up' with its coverage.

Joining former international Keith Wood on the station's panel will be Hugo MacNeill, the Herald can reveal.

MacNeill, who was capped 37 times for Ireland and chaired our bid to host the games, is the latest coup for the commercial station.

The Rugby World Cup will take place in England and Wales from September 18 to October 31.


Director of broadcasting at the station Niall Cogley said that they were hoping to break viewing records by attracting seven-figure audiences to the bigger games. The 48 games will be getting almost around-the-clock coverage on some days.

RTE has long attracted stalwarts of the rugby scene, such as Ronan O'Gara, to their punditry panels and it seems TV3 is rising to the challenge.

The team, due to be announced shortly, will be a mixed bag, according to bosses.

"We're not looking to get somebody else who will do for us what we hope Keith will do," Mr Cogley said.

"We're hoping to bring somebody complementary in."

The BBC pundit has a unique style he pointed out.

"There is hardly anybody who doesn't know and like him which is no mean feat for an analyst in any sport," he said.

The TV boss' praise of his premier pundit was timely as Woods was honoured for his contribution to the game at an Ireland Funds event.

A host of well-known faces turned out to celebrate Woods' achievements at a glamorous lunch in the Shelbourne Hotel. Michael Flately, designer Lousie Kennedy, Emma English and RTE's Sean O'Rourke joined some 400 guests to watch the former hooker accept his award.

The Lord of the Dance is anticipating that Ireland will give France the "beating they deserve" today.

But he admitted that he finds it tough to choose a side.

"It's Ireland in general. I support all the teams, all the provinces. I love them all. I love the Irish team, every chance I get I try to make the games," he said.