As the Six Nations heaves into view and the early comforting glow of Super Rugby begins to show itself over the horizon, I thought it was time to review some of the more popular rugby podcasts available for we tragics who crave a steady stream of rugby-related inputs.
Travel, commuting and exercise are all tasks aided by aural activity, and luckily the podcast universe has expanded at a rapid rate to meet the demand. However, the quality range is as diverse as a South African hooker’s lineout throwing.
Here are a few of my favourites and a couple of health warnings on others.
This is easily the highest quality of podcasters as a collective out there. It’s a South African podcast with an excellent collection of presenters. There’s good quality coaching on the panel, which is very well connected with what is going on at the clubs and at South African Rugby Union, so there are excellent observations of the machinations on and off the field in South Africa.
Over the last season or so as South Africa has struggled, this podcast has produced accurate and well-founded game and coaching analysis without the hysterics of guys who watch their national side lose more than is acceptable.
I always subscribe to this one even though the accents provide the occasional literal headache.
Out of the Box Rugby Podcast
Sadly, many overseas rugby fans think the quality of New Zealand rugby analysis lies with the likes of Justin Marshall, Tony Johnstone and the Sky Sports New Zealand boys, who are a little too polite and go out of their way to stick to the themes of the bleeding obvious.
Out of the Box is called by a quality panel of New Zealand journos and analysts, including Daniel McHardy, Nigel Yalden, Brian Ashby and others. What I particularly like is these guys simply call it as they see it – there are no niceties, no blowing smoke up the orifices of the All Blacks; just good solid rugby analysis. Even the World Rugby Awards copped a lashing if I remember rightly.
If you want a quick run-down on game plans or coaching and selection decisions in Super Rugby or New Zealand internationals, this is the place to start.
Brian Moore’s Full Contact
Do not expect to be dazzled with witty repartee nor passionate monologues as Brian Moore presents largely as he played: one pace, dogged and focused. But he has an excellent Rolodex (yes, he would still have one), so guests are of a high quality and are topical. Nigel Owens is a regular participant to give an overview of rugby decisions and trends. He is less one-eyed English than in his earlier journo days and he is clearly a smart guy – a qualified barrister or barista.
The Short Ball
This is another New Zealand podcast. Sumo Stephenson and Mils Muliaina are a really good tag team and again will call it as they see it. Not too much hero worship going on here except for when Wyatt Crockett is a guest, then the man crush really steps up. (Stephenson and Crockett holiday in the same caravan park.)
Staffan Garreo and Martyn Williams (and others) talk Welsh rugby for BBC Wales. It’s good quality analysis of all things Welsh, Pro 14 and wider European competitions. Martyn Williams is an excellent analyst who is happy to concede his Blues bias but is very insightful nonetheless. They’re also happy to make tough calls on their own sides, and they do quite a good job of picking out up and comers.
The Thistle Scottish Rugby Podcast
The only rugby podcast out of Scotland, and how’s that for timing – not bad to kick off when your national side is showing some signs of life for the first time in years. I quite like the balanced approach they take – there’s no cheerleading involved, just good analysis. To check their consistency, I tuned in after Edinburgh defeated Glasgow with only 14 to hear if they would laud or lash. They quite rightly described the game as dirge despite the excellent result for Edinburgh.
The Egg Chasers Podcast
This English podcast, sees a broadcaster, a part-time coach and full-time quantity surveyor pump out podcasts every week of the year. Generally good fun, occasionally insightful and always very English but still listenable – however, they are running with a current theme that 2018 is the year Eddie Jones’s world comes crashing down. It will be elevated to the above category if that one comes true.
The Rugby Pod
This seems to largely be a vehicle for Jim Hamilton, the ex-Scotland and Saracens journeyman, to raise his media profile, beg for Twitter followers and sponge beers off corporate sponsors while Andy Goode, ex-England and Wasps, tries to keep it steady. They do have a pretty good hit rate in the rumour mill, though.
The Rugby Report Card
There are two podcasts under the Green and Gold banner, and they’re both very different. The Rugby Report Card is one of them, and it’s based in Canberra and features two frustrated Brumbies fans and an English moderator who are high paced, opinionated and not shy about changing their views. Last year Ryan Crotty went from, “How does he get in the Crusaders?” to, “He is the best player in the world”. Big, bold, brash broadcasting and very good fun.
Rugby Union Weekly
Hosted by Ugo Monya and Chris Dickson, avoid this podcast if you want to learn anything at all about the game. I have long taken the position that ex-wingers should not be allowed to coach or commentate, and Monya extends this position to podcasting.
This is a very English (or very British Lions) podcast of pure cheerleading and zero analysis. If this podcast was a flat white, it would have 15 sugars in it. The funniest moment of the year was when Danny Care declared Aaron Smith the best halfback in the world and Monya could be heard physically deflating in the background.
Green and Gold Podcast
I struggled with a category for this podcast because occasionally the analysis is spot on – for example, Australia have lost the same game to England five times in a row – but then it gets clouded with the national bias, which is okay too. Recently one of the founders spent 20 minutes trying to convince the world Michael Hooper’s try against England should have stood despite all the evidence to the contrary.
This one has its moments and could have been included in the entertainment category, but really this is a podcast for domestics only and those who think referees have a conspiracy against your team.