Thursday 22 August 2019

TV watch: Promising start for TV3 on Rugby World Cup debut

Shane Jennings, Matt Cooper & Keith Wood.
Shane Jennings, Matt Cooper & Keith Wood.
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Ireland’s eighth World Cup campaign began this afternoon and the familiar RTÉ trio of Tom McGurk, George Hook and Brent Pope were right where you expected them to be... if you expected them to be performing punditry in the Harcourt Street Discotheque D2 rather than in the RTÉ studio.

For this edition of rugby’s marquee tournament, TV3 own the rights so fans sitting down to watch Ireland’s clash with Canada had Keith Wood, Matt Williams and Shane Jennings to entertain them.

Wood and Williams will be familiar to most supporters, having been regular television pundits over the years but Jennings proved himself to be a great addition.

The former Leinster flanker steered clear of cliché and was typically honest in describing the Irish team. Jennings was particularly strong in the discussion of ‘untouchable’ players, making the point that Jamie Heaslip and other key men might benefit from being dropped in order to rediscover their best form.

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Today FM radio host Matt Cooper was in the anchor’s chair, and while his rugby knowledge wouldn’t match his current affairs acumen, it is refreshing to watch a pundit get to the end of their point without being bludgeoned by the stock McGurk phrase, ‘I’m going to have to cut across you there’.

Former Ireland international Hugo MacNeill was another TV3 pundit to acquit himself well, winning a place on the A panel for the opening night’s game before dropping down to the second-tier alongside Malcolm O’Kelly for Tonga v Georgia, which was the curtain-raiser to Ireland’s match.

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Given the former Ireland international is heading the Irish bid to host the 2023 World Cup, MacNeill is a very polished speaker and he also articulated the difference between Brian O’Driscoll and a lot of the modern day bish-bash-bosh centres succinctly.

“Centre is the hardest position on the pitch to play extraordinarily well, but the easiest to play competently.”

In the commentary booth, we will be listening to Liam Toland and Stuart Barnes give their opinions throughout the tournament and for the latter, it is probably his dream job. The former England out-half has long held a soft spot for Irish rugby and the Sky commentator usually swoons whenever the gladiatorial atmosphere of Thomond Park is brought up.

And we haven’t seen them yet, but Peter Stringer and Neil Back are also members of TV3’s punditry stable. You can be certain that whenever they are paired together, a certain illegal hand motion will be brought up in the discussion.

TV3’s World Cup campaign is only a day older than Ireland’s and while it might not have hit the heights that Joe Schmidt’s men reached just yet, they have still made a promising start.

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