Thursday, May 17, 2007

Churchill Cup kicks off this weekend. Wake me up before you go-go.

Prologue: Several months ago the IRB announced the annual Churchill Cup would be moved from North America this year, and hosted in England - all the better to accommodate the special needs of players on the British teams who don't like travelling farther than a single time-zone away from their cucumber sandwiches three-months away from a World Cup. At the time I called the decision ludicrous, and not simply because the excuses were incredibly lame. This also made me scoff caught my attention:

"The tournament will return to North America in the summers of 2008 and 2009, and we can confirm that the finals in 2008 will be hosted by USA Rugby. We are delighted to be in a position to confirm the longer term strategy for the tournament which allows long term planning and earlier announcement of venues and dates."

Rugby Canada press release, today:


May 17, 2007
Toronto, ON

The Barclays Churchill Cup is already an internationally recognised rugby competition but this year the tournament will be broadcast to thousands more people around the globe in a worldwide broadcast deal announced today. Sky Sports are the host broadcasters of the tournament which is being hosted by England for the first time in it's five year history. [...]

Sky Sports are broadcasting seven of the nine matches live to thousands of homes in the UK, including the main Barclays Churchill Cup Final which is being staged at Twickenham on Saturday 2nd June. The tournament is contested by six teams - England Saxons, the New Zealand Maori, Scotland A, Ireland A, Canada and USA, and will this summer act as a genuine chance for players to try and earn selection to their senior teams ahead of September's Rugby World Cup.

Canada takes on Ireland A in Exeter on Saturday, May 19th - starting at 2:55 pm EST. [...]

Speaking on Wednesday's broadcast deal announcement, Paul Vaughan, Commercial Director of the Barclays Churchill Cup said, "It is great news for the tournament to receive such global coverage. This is a very exciting year for the tournament as there is so much riding on the players as they look for World Cup selection. All the countries have named strong squads and it promises to be another highly competitive tournament. There is already a following for the tournament in North America so it is pleasing that the growing number of rugby fans in the US and Canada will still be able to enjoy the matches on the television. We are also hopeful of announcing further broadcast deals over the coming days which will deliver the Barclays Churchill Cup to even more people around the world." ...

Sounds like Rugby Heaven, right? Hold onto your hats...

While Canada's games at the Barclays Churchill Cup are not available on broadcast television in Canada fans will be able to see all games involving their red-jerseyed heroes by going to their local pub that features Setanta TV programming.

Setanta, the Irish based broadcaster, sealed the North American rights to the four year old Barclays Churchill Cup this week, and Rugby Canada wants to get the word out to fans that they can find the watering hole nearest them that features Setanta broadcasts, by clicking on this handy link to the Setanta Pub Finder. This game is available on Setanta's regular channel, and not the pay per view, so entry charges may not apply, but this cannot be guaranteed at this point.

The second option is to watch the game on Setanta Broadband (subscription required) where you can watch the game through your PC or laptop. You can click here - to fill out the required information.

Rugby Canada is working on possibly getting a link from our website to for viewers and will have an update during the day Thursday (May 17th).

Canadians haven't seen their national men's rugby team appear on national television in the past year. The Churchill Cup was taken from North America and temporarily dumped to England for the benefit of British players. This September's Rugby World Cup has been taken off Canadian television... the Churchill Cup has now also disappeared off free Canadian teevee... and maybe - hopefully - but not guaranteed - might be - made available for free at Setanta-sanctioned pubs and taverns...? This all seems pretty Mickey Mouse, especially a couple days away from a tournament where Canada's national men's rugby team is a principal entrant.

Nevertheless, we're supposed to believe this is all part of the "long-term strategy" to promote and develop the sport of rugby union in North America.

Ever get the feeling you're being cheated?


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