Rugby stars set to wear microphones during Premiership matches

Rugby stars set to wear microphones during Premiership matches in the new year to bring viewers closer to the action after successful trials    

  • Cardiff’s Ellis Jenkins wore a mic in a United Rugby Championship match
  • Northampton back George Furbank wore a mic during warm-up before a game
  • RFU must apply to World Rugby for it to be passed on health and safety grounds 

The Gallagher Premiership and its principal league broadcaster TNT Sports hope to introduce player microphone content as part of their match coverage in 2024 to bring viewers closer to the action. 

Players or participants being ‘mic’d up’ while on the field is already commonplace in other sports such as cricket but plans are afoot for rugby to follow suit more regularly.

It forms part of the English domestic game’s plan to engage its fan base and television audience in a different way and make it more appealing to those watching on at home.

Player mics have not been used often in rugby to date, predominantly because the game’s physicality makes it impossible for those on the field to wear a device that enables them to talk to TV commentators, pundits or presenters while in action.

But earlier this season, Cardiff’s Ellis Jenkins wore a mic for his team’s United Rugby Championship win over South African side DHL Stormers.

Northampton back George Furbank wore a mic during the warm-up for Harlequins clash

Cardiff’s innovative decision was well received by rugby fans of all teams as the audio from Jenkins’ mic allowed television viewers to gain a fresh insight into what it is like on the pitch.

That match was broadcast on BBC Wales. Jenkins did not communicate with anyone else while wearing it but the audio and accompanying footage provide brilliant broadcast and social media content which was released post-match. 

Player microphone content is not shown live to ensure viewers do not hear bad language or see anything else which may cause offence.

In November and ahead of his Northampton team facing Harlequins, Saints back George Furbank wore a mic during the warm-up which allowed him to have a two-way conversation with TNT presenter Orla Chennaoui and pundits Lawrence Dallaglio and Brian O’Driscoll.

‘We’ve done the player mic a few times in the past with BBC but the Stormers game was the first since Covid,’ Wales flanker Jenkins said.

‘Both myself and the club fully understand how important it is to grow the game and bring supporters and the viewers closer to the action.

‘There is so much competition for attention from other sports and beyond so it’s really important to push ourselves to be more accessible.

‘The club and supporters were delighted with the content.’

Both Premiership Rugby and TNT hope to be able to bring in-match player microphone content to viewers as soon as possible once World Rugby has approved its use.

MailSport understands it is the responsibility of the RFU – as English rugby’s governing body – to apply to World Rugby for it to be passed on health and safety grounds but that it should be a formality. Against the Stormers, Jenkins wore a microphone and supporting power unit that was stitched into a vest underneath his Cardiff playing jersey.

Joe Marler provided a fascinating insight into his battle with Asher Opoku-Fordjour

Such equipment does not cause the player wearing it any distraction or interfere with their performance in any way. World Rugby has previously granted the use of player microphones in Super Rugby in the southern hemisphere. TNT and the Premiership wants to continue to explore new ground.

Interviews with try scorers just after they have crossed the line and talking to players who have been substituted have been seen at times already this season.

A good example of the latter saw England prop Joe Marler talk to TNT after he was replaced in the game between his Harlequins outfit and Sale.

Marler provided a fascinating view on what it had been like for him to scrummage against promising young Sharks and England Under-20 prop Asher Opoku-Fordjour.

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