#rugbyunited at BT Towers!

#rugbyunited at BT Towers!

BT Sport evening reveals Rugby Tonight plans for the new season

By James of RugbySaracens

BT Sport hosted a Content Creators’ Event to launch their new season of sport this week.  Alongside several million-subscriber professional YouTubers like Manny, Yahoo, TalkSport’s Georgie Bingham and others, RugbyUnited were invited to see the BT Sport studio and meet many of their presenters and pundits.  The evening highlighted the exciting mix of sports covered by BT Sport and one of their key messages that it is where the best go head to head from football, cricket, rugby, MotoGP, basketball, boxing and UFC. Their excellent rugby coverage was represented by leading rugby (and Moto GP) presenter Craig Doyle and BT Sport pundit the legend Brian O’Driscoll.

Part one below covers the discussion with Craig Doyle and plans for BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight this season as well as his tips for who would lift the trophy at Twickenham in May 2018.  A second article will come later in the month about Brian O’Driscoll’s thoughts on this season’s Champions Cup battles.

• Coming to a club near you: Rugby Tonight team film at Premiership sides’ local partner clubs during the season.

• Always on a Wednesday: Rugby Tonight to screen on BT Sport or other media channels every week.

• Heavy digital focus will ensure the show reaches out to engage with its audience including a new fans and pundits weekly challenge

Craig announced that Rugby Tonight will be back for the new season with the same established team of presenters and pundits but with an increased focus on reaching out to grassroots rugby.  

He explained that there would be opportunities in the season for partner clubs for Premiership sides to nominate themselves to get the Rugby Tonight treatment, visiting the club to film and bring the energy of the grassroots game to a wider TV audience. 

“Rugby Tonight will remain its usual informed madness and fan-based…but we want to get out more. We want to see some of the grass roots clubs, the bread and butter of Rugby Tonight, never mind the game.  The teams that come in here as demo teams, the fans, we want to go to them a bit more…It could be your local club.”  

Craig also confirmed that Rugby Tonight would broadcast in some form at 8pm on every Wednesday during the new season.  There had been some criticism on social media and elsewhere that BT Sport’s decision to use all of its channels to provide their flagship Champions Cup football coverage had meant Rugby Tonight dropped out of its usual Wednesday scheduling.  “Rugby Tonight Extra” provided a brief midweek rugby review in those weeks, but it wasn’t ideal for BT Sport’s aim to build on their rugby audience numbers.

Rugby Tonight will therefore either be on one of the main BT Sport channels or via another medium.  The details of that are still to be confirmed but streaming options like You Tube or Facebook Live appear to be on the cards to ensure the regular Wednesday 8pm slot is maintained.  

“It’ll be varied, it’ll be different, but it will exist, and that’s really important.”

Craig stressed the informed nature of the BT Sport rugby audience.  He emphasised that their match coverage would continue to be presented in the usual way to enhance the audience’s enjoyment of the game and respect them for tuning in.  Wednesday night’s Rugby Tonight was a chance for everyone to let their hair down a bit more but the demos and discussion would still seek to inform, educate and emphasise the enjoyment of the game.

A new element to this engagement would be an increased digital focus for the show with a weekly fans and pundits challenge.  Craig mentioned a league table but more details will be announced shortly.

Rugby Tonight’s famous ‘Smashometer’ will also be back to stoke the competitive nature of the show’s guests.  Everyone at the BT Sport launch event was welcome to try it out.  Craig recorded a modest score of 60 on the night.  Brian O’Driscoll topped the table with 106, something he proudly photographed and sent out on social media.  A decent 88 meant RugbyUnited was not disgraced.

Craig predicted another really competitive Premiership this year with a “nightmare” between third and ninth place finishes.  “I’m predicting a really big season for Newcastle,” he said, “and would expect them to finish top six”.  He stressed their summer signings as a reason for optimism, especially the return of Toby Flood from Toulouse.  “Having a ten who learnt his trade there, and the passion he’ll have for that club, and the knowledge he’ll bring to that club will be sensational.”

He emphasised how tough the relegation battle would be.  It was vital for London Irish to stay in the Premiership to be able to see through all the changes to the club that the management were planning, including a likely move back to London from Reading.  When pressed, he said thought the champions were likely again to be one of Wasps, Exeter Chiefs or Saracens but that it would be a tough season again and Sale, Saints or anyone could challenge.


BT Sport pundit Craig Doyle was speaking to RugbyUnited.

You can view the latest advert for the upcoming season, starring Tottenham’s Dele Alli, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX0OXyuHvZM

BT Sport is where the best in sport go head to head, bringing you live coverage of the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and Europa League, Aviva Premiership, European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, The Ashes, Boxing, UFC, NBA and MotoGP. For more information, visit www.BT.com/sport