Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Parochialism in NZ rugby coverage

An interlude from the Pacific with an item on rugby. Considering the passion for the game in New Zealand, it is astonishing that the media is still so parochial in its coverage. For example, the refreshing French 27-6 victory over Scotland in the Six Nations at the weekend - four debutantes and three converted tries to none - should warrant decent coverage. The country's major newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, could only find room for one line - the score in the results section (not even a breakdown of the scorers).
How bizarre, given that only three months ago, the French team was responsible for the All Blacks' humiliating exit from the World Cup. Disappointed that France didn't go on to win the cup after dispatching the favourites, new coach Marc Lièvremont's axe has been wielded heavily on Les Bleus cup team. But one of the inspirational players at the weekend was young French-Vietnamese flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc (pictured) from Montpellier. He is certainly somebody quickly making an impression on the game. One of the leading global rugby writers is Ian Borthwick, a Kiwi writer on the French sports daily L'Equipe. Yet we rarely see pieces of his in New Zealand media. Borthwick's writing on French rugby in the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday was far more perceptive than anything run in the NZ media since before the start of the World Cup.
Another perceptive writer is Paul Ackford who analysed the "surreal environment" for France's flyhalves leading up to 21-year-old Trinh-Duc being tossed in the deep end. Trinh-Duc is the seventh player in the last 23 games to feature in the pivot role for France:
Walk with me back to June 2006. In that month the impish Thomas Castaignede was handed the 10 jersey against Romania. Thomas, bless him, lasted a single match before making way for Damien Traille who held on to it for four. Then it was David Skrela's turn. He also played four games against Italy, Ireland, Wales and England before getting booted out in favour of Lionel Beauxis who managed one before the baton was passed to Benjamin Boyet for France's 2007 tour to New Zealand. Too much to hope that Benjy would hang on to his place against the mighty All Blacks? Yep. Boyet had two outings and was summarily dumped.
Next, Skrela and Beauxis job-shared so-to-speak for France's World Cup warm-up games against England (twice) and Wales before Freddie Michalak entered stage left for the tournament proper, whereupon the trio mixed and matched for the remainder of the competition.
And now it's poor Trinh-Duc's turn.

But Trinh-Duc played impressively against Scotland in his debut.

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