Monday 22 July 2019

England wins rugby battle on TV

George Hook
George Hook

Kirsty Blake Knox and Adam Cullen

More rugby fans tuned in to RTE to see France and England battle it out in Twickenham last Saturday than watched Ireland's victory against Scotland at Murrayfield.

RTE ratings for the matches peaked in the final few minutes of the England v France game, with 891,030 viewers tuning in - an increase of 38,650 when compared to Ireland v Scotland peak figures of 852,380.

"Obviously, it's very unusual for an Ireland match to be outflanked," RTE spokesperson Fergus McCormack said.

"But given the circumstances and that the outcome would dictate Ireland's placing in the Six Nations, it's not entirely surprising."

The final game attracted a peak television audience for the BBC, with 9.6 million watching the nail-biting game, while Scotland v Ireland pulled in ratings of 5.1 million.

More than 60,000 #SixNations tweets were posted on social media, and online ticketing marketplace Viagogo is reporting the demand for Rugby World Cup match tickets has increased by 107pc since Saturday's drama.

The climax to the rugby championship also marked the end of a broadcasting era as pundits Tom McGurk and George Hook departed Montrose.

Hook was unsentimental about his final broadcast, saying he had "no regrets" at leaving RTE. "It was the right decision to leave and the right time to leave," Hook told the Irish Independent.

Despite RTE's failure to obtain the Rugby World Cup rights, Hook's contract will not terminate until after the World Cup final on October 31.

"RTE have contracted me to the end of the World Cup so I get a cheque every month," he said. "Which is nice."

The broadcaster (73) began his career with RTE 17 years ago and said the gig "saved my life".

"I was struggling financially and in a bad place," he said. "To get a call from the national broadcaster was unfathomable - it changed my life."

Hook admitted, however, that things often became tense on set and he had considered "thumping" McGurk on several occasions.

"Live broadcast is always tense," he said. "You are in studio for hours, it would be odd if you didn't get annoyed from time to time."

Daire O'Brien, Shane Horgan and Ronan O'Gara are all in the running to replace the two veteran broadcasters.

"RTE have known about us leaving for two years so they have been making sure plans are in place," Hook said. "I don't think there will be any great surprises."

Meanwhile, ITV announced that Brian O'Driscoll will be among its team of pundits for their World Cup coverage. The Ireland and Leinster legend joins Geordan Murphy, TV presenter Craig Doyle, Jonny Wilkinson and Francois Pienaar.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Six Nations heroes and heroines celebrated in style on Sunday night as both the men's and women's teams hit the town.

Ladies captain Niamh Briggs revealed the girls partied hard in Coppers. And their male counterparts equally painted the town red with a "few heads" popping up in the Dublin hotspot.

"Everyone is in great spirits - it's been a bit of a whirlwind," she added.

The lads retired to the Intercontinental Hotel after their night out and, the next day, Rob Kearney, Peter O'Mahony and Marty Moore were greeted by the women as they arrived at the hotel for a celebratory function.

Irish Independent

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