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Too close for comfort
Richard Seeckts
February 4, 2014
Presenter Jason Mohammad pitch-side in Cardiff in the all-too-brief BBC pre-match build-up © PA Photos
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The first text received after France's victory on Saturday simply said, "Merde". The second, more explicitly asked, "Which moron at the BBC thinks all those repeat close-ups help watching rugby?"

Perhaps French broadcasters are responsible for what we saw from Paris, but they can't be blamed for similar fare from Cardiff. It's easy to believe that those charged with bringing rugby to the nation's couch potatoes are more eager to show their latest technological wizardry than the match.

Watching rugby requires perspective and proportion; endless up-close studies of players may be great for lip-readers and dermatologists (and even the TMO), but they do little for those who want to watch the match. To appreciate the value of a player's work, we need to know where his team-mates and opponents are, and what they are doing.

The commercial broadcasters are equally guilty of microscopic examination of games to the extent that the bigger picture, literally, is often lost. TV viewers saw Gael Fickou's winning try from behind the try line at ground level. In other words, the cheap seats. The best view is from the halfway line, halfway up the tall stands in modern stadia where, oddly enough, the media and the most expensive seats are.

The camera on rails behind the touch judge's legs is in an unenviable position; its restricted view has no context and therefore no meaning. Cameras around the ground can provide valuable extra dimensions on aspects of the play, but right now the tricksters in the trucks are being too clever by half.

 
How long is it before the match scores are combined with the public vote to decide the winner?
 

Nevertheless, John Inverdale's cosy hosting of advert-free sport warms the heart at this time of year, until it ends just two-and-a-half minutes after the final whistle due to the BBC's pressing need to resume its Saturday diet of talent shows.

Given so little airtime before and after the matches, there was no need for a pointless poll asking viewers who they thought would win the Championship - 40% voted for England, 6% for France, confirming that more English people than French watch the BBC.

"Very interesting", said Auntie's man in Cardiff, hopefully. It wasn't. Not all television requires a public vote. How long is it before the match scores are combined with the public vote to decide the winner?

There appeared to be no BBC highlights programme on either Saturday or Sunday night, so if you missed a game and forgot to record it, BBC I-Player was the last resort. Sadly, the matches from Paris and Dublin could not be viewed until Monday morning.

It is important for rugby and its many disciples unable or unwilling to subscribe to pay TV that the BBC continues to air the Six Nations. The opening weekend of the Championship lived up to the hype; the coverage of it did not.

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Richard Seeckts' rugby career consisted of one school match where he froze on the wing and despite no substitutes being available he was withdrawn from the game at half-time for mocking the opposition's line-out calls. Thereafter Richard and the sport agreed active participation was not the way ahead, but that has not prevented him from avidly writing about and watching the game. He now contributes his random observations to the Crooked Feed blog on ESPNscrum.com