SIMON SAYS: Hooray, ITV are leaving behind the sterile studio

SIMON SAYS: ITV leaving behind their sterile studio for stadium coverage is the only way to give viewers a taste of the action… and the fun police come for Rassie Erasmus once again

  • The tournament must come alive for viewers back home – and can’t from Kent
  • Adding smaller teams for more matches would also raise the World Cup’s game
  • PLUS: the creeping silence of Bill Sweeney and Erasmus’s traffic lights 
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

Some good news: ITV will be leaving behind their glum and sterile studio in Kent for the knockout stages to broadcast live from the stadiums. The cost-saving production feels more like a leadership debate than a festival of rugby and fails to give viewers a real taste of the action.

The World Cup only comes around once every four years and our TV executives are not doing the occasion justice. Reporting back to a group of pundits who have watched the game on screens is not prime-time telly. It would never happen in men’s football.

Connecting with the audiences back home is tough enough when there are no fixtures on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

World Rugby have good intentions by spreading out the fixtures to increase player welfare but as a result it feels like a series of drawn-out Test weeks.

One of the joys of watching the Olympics, Wimbledon or the football World Cup is the wall-to-wall coverage. The comfort of turning on the TV on a Tuesday evening knowing there will be a live event, even if you struggle to name a single player. 

ITV will finally leave their sterile studio behind to cover matches from the stadiums next week

This competition only comes alive at the weekends, when fans fly out on their mini breaks before going back to work. One solution is for the World Cup to expand its walls. Invite more teams to the party and play more games. Yes, it will lead to mismatches but I would rather watch a one-sided match than none at all. Bring in the likes of Spain, Canada and the USA.

They may not win much, but the joy of a minnow scoring a once-in-a-lifetime try against one of the heavyweights brings its own sense of joy.

These smaller nations bring a sense of passion and authenticity. They have put up a hell of a fight so far, reminding us what the sport will be leaving behind when the 12-team Nations League launches without them. The sight of Portuguese fans singing at the top of their voices on the tram to Saturday evening’s game against Wales was a sight to behold.

Bill Sweeney (center right, looking up) has been a muted figure at the head of the RFU

The fun police looked to convict Rassie Erasmus (left) for his use of the traffic light system in the Springboks’ opener against Scotland

It is now 272 days since RFU CEO Bill Sweeney last spoke to the national media. He joined James Haskell on a cosy podcast but his thoughts on three Premiership clubs going bankrupt in the space of 12 months have been limited to a press release. At one of the rockiest times in English rugby the leadership has been invisible. 

There have been rumours about a vote of no confidence and yesterday it emerged 30 of the 65 RFU Council members signed an email questioning his leadership on the eve of the World Cup. By the time Sweeney is ready to break his silence, it may well be too late.

The fun police were out in force this week after South Africa used a traffic light system to send messages onto the pitch against Scotland. It all added to the spectacle, with the old fox Rassie Erasmus pulling off another trick and bagging another victory.

There seems to be an old man’s corner in rugby who are terrified of innovation; let’s leave them stuck on the red.

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