Six Nations Commentators
Six Nations is coming and for most people around the world that means being glued to a television set with television voices describing play and evaluating it.
Many languages are used in the broadcast of rugby matches, different voices for different stations. In South Africa matches on television are broadcast in three languages – English Afrikaans and isiXhosa. That applies to Six Nations matches, but the English commentaries for Six Nations matches are taken from overseas commentators.
Many of the voices will be instantly recognised, not quite as readily as Bill McLaren’s was but getting that way. Eddie Butler for the running commentary and Stuart Barnes for the side comments are cases in point – two former international players, now TV gurus. And there is McLaren blood in one of this year’s commentators.
Eddie Butler was born in Newport, which is almost Welsh and almost English. Unlike most Welsh players, his education took him to Cambridge University where he won three Blues. He also captained Pontypool at a time when it was a powerful rugby club, and played at No.8 for Wales 16 times, the Barbarians and the B&I Lions. He was a schoolmaster but now, turning 62 in May, is an outstanding TV rugby commentator. He has also been a columnist for the Observer and the Guardian newspapers and has two novels published.
Stuart Barnes also won three Blues, but at Oxford when he was up at St Edmund’s Hall, Teddy Hall, a home for many rugby players. Five years and a bit younger than Butler, he is a man of Essex but went to school in Newport and actually captained Welsh Schools and later played for Newport and was in the Welsh national squad before deciding to play for England, whose flyhalf he was on six occasions. He became a Times journalist and is also the outstanding comments man on Sky’s rugby broadcasts.
At their same level and often paired with Butler is Brian Moore, once a belligerent hooker for England, a man with legal training who, several years ago, qualified as a referee. He has become less aggressive as a comments man as time has gone by. He played in 64 Tests for England and another five for the B&I Lions. A solicitor, he is the author of books, a Daily Telegraph columnist and a television commentator, mainly on rugby.
Also a part of the group, with a distinctive Welsh accent, is the former flyhalf Jonathan Davies, MBE. He played for Wales, then went off to rugby league as a utility back and then came back to rugby union and played for Cardiff.
In the first two rounds of the Six Nations, the international broadcasters will be Mark Robson, Martin Gillingham and Ryle Nugent as the main commentators with Ieuan Evans, Rory Dawson and Dewi Morris as their comments men.
France vs Wales: Mark Robson and Ieuan Evans
Scotland vs Italy: Martin Gillingham and Rory Lawson
Ireland vs England: Ryle Nugent and Dewi Morris
Scotland vs Ireland: Ryle Nugent and Rory Lawson
Italy vs Wales: Mark Robson and Ieuan Evans
England vs France: Martin Gillingham and Dewi Morris
Mark Robson has commentated on rugby matches for Sky for over 15 years. He has covered top club rugby in Europe, including France’s Top 14 and covered Ireland’s matches in Australia and in the November Tests. The man from Northern Ireland played a variety of sports in his young days and has commentated on many sports for over 30 years, admitting that rugby is his favourite game.
Martin Gillingham is also a commentating all-rounder. Leicester born, he spent 11 years in South Africa, mostly involved in athletics. He has commentated – and written – on other sports but in recent times the rugby mike has grabbed most of his attention for a variety of broadcasters.
Ryle Nugent climbed Mount Everest. He was the first Irishman to do it before he turned 25. He is an experienced sports broadcaster, at one stage the head of sport for the Irish station RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann). He has been a sports broadcaster and journalist for all this 30-year working life.
The three comments men for the first two rounds are all international players.
Not yet 40, Rory Lawson is the youngest of the commentators down for the first two rounds. Like his father, Alan, he played scrumhalf for Scotland. Like his grandfather he is a rugby commentator. He has a way to go to catch up with his grandfather, the great and glorious Bill McLaren. Alan played 15 times for Scotland, Rory 31 times. The whole of Rory’s international career was in the 21st century, which means that he, alone of the six commentators for the first two rounds of the Six Nations, is the only one who played in the Six Nations. When first chosen for Scotland, in 2006, Rory Lawson was playing for Gloucester.
Ieuan Evans, MBE, is, unsurprisingly, a Welshman. He had a wonderful rugby career. He played wing for Wales 72 times, scored a record 33 tries for his country, and went on three B&I Irish tours – to Australia in 1988, New Zealand in 1993 and South Africa in 1997. He captained Wales 28 times and in 2010 was one of 15 Welsh rugby captains who climbed Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for a cancer charity.
Scrumhalf Dewi Morris is Welsh born (in Crickhowell up near Brecon), played for Welsh Schools, then went off to Manchester Polytechnic and ended up throwing the ball about for England. He played 26 times for England and was a B&I Lion.
Good watching and good listening!