eir sport anchor Tommy Bowe says there’s no substitute for live sport as he talks about the new PRO14 season, how he prepares for live broadcasts and more.
He may be an Ireland and Lions legend whose speed and trickery thrilled spectators the world over for many years, but Tommy Bowe is just a fan at heart. He loves watching rugby and, like so many of us, is delighted that live sport has returned to our screens.
“It’s great to have live sport back on TV, even without the crowds,” he said. “I’ve seen some fantastic classic matches over the past while, but there really is no substitute for live sport – the thrill, the excitement and the drama of it all.
“Just think of the number of games that have gone down to the wire already. It’s hard to beat the drama of Ian Madigan’s last minute kick in the semi-final win over Edinburgh after Ulster looked down and out or Ben Healy’s long range effort for Munster very late on against Scarlets in round one of the new campaign. It’s been great to watch.”
He’s also delighted to be back in the studio, re-united with panellists Gordon D’Arcy and Peter Stringer and the rest of the eir sport team. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but we really are like a family and I really missed them all when live rugby was put on hold,” he says.
“Everyone is very professional and committed to producing the absolute best that they can. There’s so much going on and, with games going down to the wire, you never know what is going to happen. It’s a lot of pressure, but a lot of fun too.”
This season has seen some the games played on a Monday for the first time – a move that has proven very popular with supporters. “Yeah – I love it,” he says. “It’s nice to have some live sport to look forward to on a Monday evening. It stretches the weekend out and I’m delighted it’s been a success. The teams have really bought into it as well which is great – the two games last Monday were excellent.”
Despite the disruption and the lack of crowds, which he feels makes it very tough for the players, the 69-times capped former international winger is very happy with what he has seen over the opening five rounds of the new campaign.
“There has been some fantastic rugby played in some very difficult conditions with a lot of tries scored,” he says. “The four Irish provinces are flying, despite losing a lot of players to international duty. They have definitely got the jump on the other teams right now, with Leinster, Munster and Ulster all unbeaten so far.”
But, with the Irish provinces dominant, what about the Scottish and Welsh teams? They haven’t had the best of starts to the new season – what can we expect from them going forward?
“They will get better and more competitive as the season goes on,” Bowe reckons. “The Scottish sides in particular have been heavily impacted by international call-ups, with the national squad drawn almost exclusively from the two clubs. It’s very hard to cope with that, but I expect we’ll see them challenging strongly again when the current international series is completed.
“I probably expected a little more from the Welsh clubs, but after winning a grand slam and reaching a World Cup semi-final in 2019, there have been lots of backroom changes and the Welsh game has been in something of a transitional phase this year. That said, they will improve and will be much more competitive once they get all their players back.”
Although it may look like the TV game comes naturally to him, Bowe insists that a lot of preparation goes in beforehand to ensure that everything runs smoothly when the cameras start to roll. Nothing is left to chance, with every second of the broadcast accounted for.
“It’s a fascinating business,” he says. “There’s a lot of research and prep work beforehand. I love working with the team as they decide what to discuss in each segment. They’re a close-knit bunch who bounce ideas off each other and work very hard to make sure the content is always engaging for viewers. I write my own script which I love doing but can be a bit of a challenge. I’m constantly trying to come up with new ways of saying the same thing to keep things as fresh as possible.
“It’s good having people like Gordon D’Arcy and Peter Stringer alongside me in front of camera as well. They’re two people I know very well from playing with and against each other for so many years. In addition to their deep knowledge of the game, they also bring a bit of fun to proceedings.
“There is pressure, but that mainly comes from not wanting to mess up and let the team down after all their hard work during the week.”
***See EVERY PRO14 game this season ONLY on eir sport.