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« The long and winding road |

October 1, 2010

Posted on 10/01/2010

Tales from The Leaky Caravan


The ESPN team pictured in 'The Leaky Caravan' at Madejski Stadium © Getty Images

Ten live matches, 2,690 business miles, countless coffee stops at motorway services and a trip to Newcastle aboard the Flying Scotsman later, I think we’ll all be ready for a bit of a breather after the Premiership’s opening five-week block.

ESPN might have had to wait until the opening weekend in September to lose our Premiership virginity, but we’ve been going at it like Tim Payne and Brett Deacon ever since. Time now to take stock.

Nine out of ten cats who’ve expressed an opinion seem to like the slightly laid-back, occasionally perpendicular and very often chaotic approach we bring to our match day television coverage.

I dare say there are more than one or two of you who still have reservations - and even more who aren’t coughing up the (incredibly reasonable!) £9 a month yet to get us - but we’re working hard to win you and them over.

The tone was set in Twickenham’s West Car Park on day one. Barely-controlled mayhem enveloped the flashy contraption our bosses call the mobile studio and we’ve dubbed The Leaky Caravan (see Watford last Sunday).

It must have seemed like a bright idea in the production meeting weeks before, but the reality of plonking a live TV stage in the thick of a rugby crowd who’d been supping for a solid six hours was fabulously predictable. Think Sex Pistols at The Marquee Club in 1977 and you won’t be far off. I doubt Mike Catt’s ever experienced a post-match interview quite like it.

The caravan’s already become the star of the show. Players have quickly cottoned on to the idea that targeting Austin, perched in it pitch-side like a coconut, adds enormously to the fun of the pre-match kick around. Jim Mallinder’s triumphant walk towards it through an adoring Franklin’s Gardens public is a modern classic. Toby Booth thought he’d been drafted on to The Muppet Show and Gloucester Man (and Woman) proved whatever the West Car Park got up to after a match, Kingsholm could do better.

Away from the weekend, one of the joys of the job is getting to spend time with the teams as they go through their preparation. While it’s true one training session does tend to resemble another, every club has its own innovations and traditions that set them apart.

Exeter nearly pulled off mission impossible after spending the week on a pitch carefully marked out to the precise measurements of Welford Road. Saracens’ pack huddled around recordings of Dave Pearson”s “crouch, touch, pause...engage” to try to time their hit to perfection. Forensic planning that was almost scuppered when Dave nearly missed the match with Northampton after getting caught in a jam on the M4. And the final ten minutes of Leicester’s session on Tuesday went straight to the top of the list marked Most Brutal.

Early days for us all then, but if the opening five weeks suggest anything, they suggest it’s going to be worth staying on for the ride...

ESPN commentator Nick Mullins

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Comments

Posted Anna on 11/19/2010

Thanks. Your coverage of the premiership is a breath of fresh air. The match commentary is so much better than either the BBC or Sky. No turgid supposing at what the players may be thinking. Just incisive comments about what's actually happening.

Keep up the good work. I'm watching

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