Reasons to be cheerful
September 10, 2013
Twickenham bathed in an autumnal glow © Getty Images
September. New season, new broadcaster, new scrum laws. Tick, tick, tick, with a few caveats.
By a quirk of the fixture list, it is possible that the Aviva Premiership table already looks close to how it will finish in May. Surely Exeter will not be propping up the rest by then, but I'd expect to see five of the current top six in next season's Heineken Cup. Or none, but that's in the hands of the suits.
Twickenham's 62,637 spectators saw eight England wingers play on Saturday, none of whom had a shocker. Riches for Stuart Lancaster to pick from, though Harlequins must rate Christian Wade pretty highly. He was repeatedly snuffed out by a single-minded mob of Quins, leaving Marland Yarde the top winger on the day.
HQ's beautiful turf and ample facilities can't change the enormous errors of the 1990's, when the stands were built too far from the pitch and fitted with seats fit for pygmies. If the stewards could be persuaded not to block the spectators' view, and a pint of bitter cost less than £4.80, the longer-term problems could be forgiven.
BT Sport's rugby debut was encouraging. Too many cooks, trying too hard and charging about too much, but young smoothie, Craig Doyle is just the chap to make it OK to watch rugby when your mother-in-law comes to lunch. Leading commentators, Nick Mullins and Alastair Eykyn shone through the occasional mayhem of having three on the gantry.
Pundits pestering players during warm ups will only become worthwhile when Austin Healey, walking backwards for the camera, reverses into a vast prop travelling at speed. A guaranteed YouTube hit.
When the expert former players had finished appearing from all parts of the stadium with grinning buffoons for a backdrop, it was easy to wish for Inverdale, Guscott and Wood sitting in a studio to calm the nerves.
As for reading out viewers' tweets during the match, just stop it. It's a rugby match, not a reality TV show. If viewers really can't form their own opinions, they can listen to the commentators. But paying commentators a fortune to read out viewers' rants is somewhat topsy-turvy, and ghastly.
Not qualified by first-hand experience to opine on the new scrum laws, I quote the eminently qualified Dai Young, Wasps director of rugby. "It's one game. I don't think anyone could suggest it wasn't an improvement on last season." Progress, at last.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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