Rugby Fever

This might be a stretch topic for this blog, but after Saturday’s game I just can’t stop thinking about Rugby. England had an improbable win over France on Saturday to reach the finals:

Even though it was achieved by five points this time, the England rugby team’s victory over France in Saturday’s semi-final was every bit as racked with nerve-shredding tension as last weekend’s two-point scramble over Australia.

By the end, there was barely enough energy left in the collective spirit to wander out into the street outside the pub and salute the triumph with a verse of Jerusalem. And if everyone was as drained as this just by watching, imagine how the players must have felt.

Actually, they must have felt wonderful. Exhausted, but vindicated; there can be no better combination for the sportsman than knowing that all that effort has reward.

Never in English sporting history can there have been a turnaround like theirs: a month ago, in defeat by South Africa, they were dismissed as hopeless and hapless, now they are mean and magnificent. Their self-belief has apparently been forged from tungsten.

The highlights:

I’m not the only person that is excited. ThisLondon describes the scene in England as the “The Great Ticket Scrum.” Tickets are going for “between £1,000 and £4,000 each – up to 13 times their face value.” The Eurostar train to Paris is sold-out and hotels rooms for Saturday’s final (the few that remain) are “advertised at between four and ten times their usual rates.”

Do you have the fever, yet? If yes — and if you don’t want to enter the ticket-scrum or rely on YouTube highlights, you better explore your pay-per-view options for Saturday’s final against South Africa. Dish Network and DirecTV will both offer the game for $25 and $30, respectively. iN DEMAND is offering the game for Cable subscribers. The fees will depend on you local provider.

Normally, European rugby games can be seen on Setanta Sports, a small but rapidly growing network. For this most-epic of games, Setanta will only be offering a tape-delayed broadcast on its network, plus a live pay-per-view web-stream. Setanta has an interesting story:

Setanta Sports was formed due to the football passion of its co-founders Michael O’Rourke and Leonard Ryan. Living in London and frustrated at the lack of live coverage in London of the Ireland v Holland World Cup clash in 1990, the two negotiated broadcasting rights and put the event on in Ealing. A thousand like-minded fans turned up and Setanta Sports was born. The word ‘Setanta’ is taken from one of Ireland’s great heroes, ‘Cúchulainn’, which means the ‘hound of Cullan’. As a child, this great hero’s name was ‘Setanta’ meaning ‘the little’. He was given the name Cúchulainn when he killed the fearsome watchdog of the smith Cullan, by hitting a sliotar (the small ball used in hurling) down the animal’s throat. Having killed the watchdog, he undertook to guard Cullan’s house in place of the hound.

With all this buzz, these broadcasters are cashing in. According to Jim McDonald, head of broadcast at MPG, the media planning agency, ITV (the network airing the games in London) has already boosted its income by about £2m.

“As for the final itself, I should think we are looking at £5m-£6m potentially in the additional value of the air time. ITV’s predictions were very conservative and were based on the England team only reaching as far as the quarter finals.”

Enjoy the game.

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