Masters of the microphone
May 27, 2010
The late, great Bill McLaren drew millions to the game with his work behind the microphone © Getty Images
To celebrate the appointment of Nick Mullins to the ESPN commentary team prior to next season's Premiership coverage, our latest Scrum Seven features some of the greatest talents to have worked behind the microphone.
Many have tried to bring the game into your living room but very few have etched their name into the history of the sport while doing so. Here we offer our take on those who have set the standard as commentators or analysts - in the UK at least.
Quite simply the 'Voice of Rugby'. A truly iconic figure, McLaren's journalistic career began with the Hawick Express but his reputation was forged at the BBC where he made his debut on the radio in 1953 before moving into the realms of TV in 1959. And it was there he stayed for the next 43 years, using his warm and unique brogue to bring the game to the masses until finally hanging up his microphone for the last time in 2002.
A fine player in his youth, a bout of tuberculosis ended his playing days and very nearly his life. He was later awarded an OBE, CBE and MBE for his services to the sport . He died aged 86 earlier this year and remains the only non-player to be inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. Most recently he was posthumously inducted into the RPA Hall of Fame. "He brought the game to a huge number of people by the way he explained it and his own love of it, which came out in his commentary," Lions legend Ian McGeechan said. "He didn't complicate things and you understood what he was about, whether you knew about the game or not."
Legendary Wales fly-half Morgan won 29 caps for his country and shared in their Grand Slam success in 1952 and the victory over New Zealand in 1953. He also won four caps for the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa in 1955.
He would become another familiar voice on the BBC and was a key member of the teams behind Grandstand and Sportsnight and later served as head of BBC Sport as well as a team captain on A Question of Sport. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his excitable commentary over the images of Gareth Edwards' famous try for the Barbarians against New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park in 1973.
Harrison is Sky Sports' widely-respected lead commentator - considered by many to be the best in the business. Like his illustrious predecessors, Harrison began his commentary career with BBC Radio, working on various sports, but opted for a move to Sky in 1994 where his career and reputation blossomed.
It was here he would form a notable partnership with former England international Stuart Barnes and together they benefitted from Sky's extensive rugby portfolio. Harrison has covered four British & Irish Lions tours, countless internationals and Heineken Cup Guinness Premiership Finals. So desirable were his services, he was even lent out to rival broadcaster ITV for their coverage of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Taylor won his first cap for Wales at the age of 21 and went on to play 26 Tests during the golden era of Welsh rugby. He also toured with the Lions twice, in 1968 and again in 1971, when he played in all four Tests as they beat the All Blacks to record the Lions' only series victory in New Zealand.
He retired from playing in 1978 but his media career was already off and running having worked as a summariser for McLaren at the BBC. But he made his name with ITV, who he joined in 1979, and became the commercial broadcaster's 'voice of rugby'. He cut his teeth commentating at four Olympic Games but returned to his first love in 1991 when he became ITV's chief rugby commentator. He led the coverage of four World Cups - including the Springboks' success in 1995 and England's victory in 2003 - and was also part of the team for the 2007 tournament. His commentary skills have also graced the IRB Sevens Series and his production expertise also helped bring the Living with the Lions documentary to fruition. His journalistic career has also included stints with the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and most recently ESPNscrum.com.
Moore built a reputation as one of the hardest players of the amateur era with the 'Pitbull' packing down as England's hooker in 64 Tests. A loyal servant of Harlequins as well as Leeds, Richmond and Nottingham, Moore trained as a solicitor in Nottingham while pursuing his rugby career. He won Grand Slams with England in 1991, 1992 and 1995 and played at the first three Rugby World Cups and toured with the British & Irish Lions on three occasions.
Following his retirement, Moore began a successful career as a journalist and pundit, working extensively with the BBC as a co-commentator. Famed for his no-nonsense style, he once labelled England flanker James Haskell a "half-wit" but often saves his most savage criticism for referees - especially those unable to spot a crooked feed at scrum time. In a bid to understand the officials' plight, he recently completed a referees' course and combines his TV commitments with a column for the The Daily Telegraph.
"I call it as it is in my commentary. I think that's what people like," he said of his style in an interview with his employers. "Whether or not it's the best way to go, it's my way, and actually it's quite simple. If people don't like it and the BBC don't like it then they don't have to employ me."
Davies was regarded as one of the most gifted players of his generation and his talent was rewarded with international recognition in both codes of the game during a 15-year playing career. He made his Wales debut in 1985 and went on to captain his country before opting for a high-profile switch to rugby league. He became a dual-code international with appearances for both Great Britain and Wales before switching codes again to finish his career in union.
After his playing career was over, Davies went on to forge a career as a respected television pundit for the BBC covering both rugby codes is his excitable tones, notably during Wales' last-gasp win over Scotland in 2010, when his commentary was reduced to a series of shrieks by the thrilling finale.
A three-time Oxford Blue, Barnes played for Newport and Bristol before switching to Bath where he would make his name. He captained the west country giants to the first league and cup double by an English side and went on to make his England bow in 1984. However, he found his opportunities limited by the presence of Rob Andrew and would make just nine more international appearances in the following nine years although he did make the grade for the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 1993.
He retired in 1994 and soon resigned from his job with a building society to concentrate on his media career that had already begun with the Daily Telegraph. His broadcasting career would start initially with the BBC but later with Sky Sports where he formed a BAFTA award-winning partnership with Harrison as a respected analyst. He also writes for The Times and appears regularly on Sky Sports' magazine show The Rugby Club.
"At full-time I could not see the field for people dancing in front of me." Tom Hamilton reflects on the Lions' defeat at the hands of the Brumbies in Canberra
To coincide with the Lions' tour of Australia, and in association with Dove Men+Care, we are asking you to vote for the greatest Lions moments of the professional era
"He's full of empathy...he calms the water...he's the Brumbies' saviour," was how a taxi driver in Canberra described Jake White." Tom Hamilton files his latest Tour Diary
"I am not alone in believing this series could well be decided by who can steal most ball after the tackle." John Taylor previews the Lions' first Test showdown with Australia