Marshy’s Cup Call: Behind the mic


An eight-day gap in All Black games has allowed me to slip away for a break in Italy with my wife, Nicolle.

So here’s a trip away for my column - an insight into Sky Sport rugby commentating.

My introduction was in Hong Kong in 2010. You know the match, where James O’Connor converted his own try to win it for the Wallabies.

They put me in the commentary box with headphones and a microphone, showed me a few basics, and said: Always treat the mic as live, good luck.

What they want is your personality and natural instinct for the game to come through.

They don’t want to train robots. You either sink or swim. I love it. I’m lucky to have the job and I’m hoping to do it for as long as I can.

My role is to give listeners an idea of what I would be thinking - having been there before.

Also, what the All Blacks are thinking given their current game plan and the way I’ve seen them play.

For pre-match build-up and hype we predominantly hang around the All Blacks’ hotel. That’s a little unusual, for me.

I regularly bump into guys I played with in the All Blacks.

Our jocularity and greeting is all the same - but in the professional environment there’s a difference between us now.

In the lead-up to a Test we’ll do colour stories - taking a player out of the hotel and getting a different side of them for people to see.

Once the team’s announced we make our notes.

It’s fair to say a team like Georgia’s going to be a challenge for players’ names. We check pronunciation with the opposition team’s management.I spell the players’ names phonetically.

One local example is Jerome Kaino. It’s not said “Kye-no”. We’ve been told that, categorically. I write his name: “Kane-O”.

On game-day, we turn up three-and-a-half hours before kick-off.

My on-air role changes depending on where we are. In New Zealand I have control over replays and angles.

I can ask for pause-and-play when a certain player gets the ball, or ask for the high shot or end-on shot to explain what happens.

NZ has the best broadcasters and cameramen in the world - our guys know rugby like no one else.

South Africa and Australia are pretty good. But in Europe they mainly cover football. We find it frustrating.

Also we have no control over replays and camera angles.

After the game we might summarise the game from the field or interview players, up to 40 minutes after the final whistle.

Turning to this weekend, the All Blacks need to get Waisake Naholo on the field and cement their combinations.

Wales’ win last weekend raises the prospect of England being the first tournament host knocked out in the pool stages.

Sunday’s game is arguably the most important pool game in Rugby World Cup history.

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