Few people can claim to have won a World Cup in both the 7- and 15-a-side formats. In fact only two: Lawrence Dallaglio and Matt Dawson. The pair were part of the team that won 1993 Sevens World Cup and capped this off with the 15-a-side equivalent in Australia a decade later.
This experience should come in handy when they’re sitting on the crack team of presenters that’s fronting rugby coverage on BT Sport, the new broadcaster of the JP Morgan Sevens Series and the Aviva Premiership.
Take The Three was at the launch of the new Premiership fixture list to chat to Dallaglio about how the new channel will be doing things a little differently…
Take The Three: Hi Lawrence, how exciting is the prospect of a new rugby season?
Lawrence Dallaglio: I am very excited for the start of the new season, not least because we have a new broadcaster in BT Sport. I don’t think it’s being too dramatic to say that out of all the Premiership Finals playoffs seasons, without doubt, looking at the fixtures and the competition, this will be the most competitive ever. It’s very, very exciting. If you look at the quality of the squads and the fixtures, every single one throws up some uncertainty.
TTT: What does BT Sport’s investment mean for the game of rugby
LD: BT have invested significant funds in rugby and hopefully the game will get bigger and bigger as a result of that. The bigger we can make the game ultimately the better it’s going to be for all of us.
TTT: How important is BT Sport’s entrance into broadcasting the game?
LD: I think the most important feature for BT Sport has been about trying to get some stability and continuity to the coverage of rugby. BT Sport are investing in the game of rugby and for the first time in a long time we’ve now got rugby fixtures in this country with one broadcaster, which I think is quite unique. We’ve got consistent time slots so we can start to build that audience.
Having the Friday 7:45 evening kick offs will create a real atmosphere at the different clubs and with a regular 3pm slot on Saturdays, people can start to build their weekend around the rugby as opposed to the other way around. Opening the paper to try and find out what time each game was on was quite confusing.
TTT: How will the coverage be different?
LD: I wasn’t involved in some of the conversations with the various stakeholders but being able to speak to some of the coaches or their assistants at key times in games would be a great way for the supporters to get an understanding of what’s going on in their minds, particularly if a game’s on a knife edge with 20mins to go.
Perhaps coming in at half time it’d be nice to get a quick 30secs from some of the guys. It’s not rocket science, we’re just trying to improve experience and hopefully give the viewers at home a bit more to think about.
TTT: But where do you draw the line between innovation and intrusion?
LD: I think you draw the line by communicating openly about it. We’ve thrown lots of ideas around, and believe you me there were lots and lots of idea – some were pretty out there! We’re all in this business to try and bring the game forward and hopefully put on the best entertainment show possible.
TTT: So, who has been involved in the discussions?
LD: We’ve discussed it with the various stakeholders in the game, CEOs, Directors of Rugby, etc, and taken everyone’s views and opinions, some of which were pretty conservative right the way through to some being a bit more open to do different things. We’ve tried to come up with something that keeps everyone happy and, without being too gimmicky, makes the coverage of rugby even better.
TTT: What about involving referees in the debate?
LD: I think we’ve all got a duty and responsibility to sell the game. Referees are definitely included in that as are all the people involved in the various clubs.
Referees are obviously a bit protective at the moment and we have to tread very carefully with that dialogue. We want to include them obviously but we have to go through the correct, appropriate channels to make sure that that happens. Suffice to say it will happen I’m sure.
TTT: Viewing figures of the Premiership have been going down in recent years. How do you plan to combat that?
LD: We don’t want the coverage to be about them and us. Referees, coaches, players, broadcasters, we’re all stakeholders in the game so we’ve got to work together to make the coverage of our sport the best it can be. That’s what we’ll be trying to do: get a real understanding, within reason, of what the guys are trying do at the weekend or post-match, what went right, what went wrong, but actually include referees, coaches, fans, players in that debate.
The mid-week show will also not be about them and us, it’s about including stakeholders in the game and having a bit of fun as well.
We want to maintain the support base that we have, which is very passionate rugby supporters, but at the same time reach out to a new audience as well, both male and female and a younger demographic as well. The key point that we’re trying to get across is that there’s one broadcaster for Premiership rugby in this country and I think that really helps in terms of growing the game.
TTT: Will the fans be able to watch all of the teams?
Clearly some clubs may only feature every now and again in coverage but we hope everyone will get in the shop window to demonstrate themselves at that level. With three live games a week minimum, and four in the opening weekend with the Double Header, it’s going to be very exciting.