Premier Sports, the new home of every game in the Guinness PRO14, has announced a stellar line-up of respected rugby names to join its broadcast team in Wales for an exciting new season of rugby action.
Just a fortnight after announcing it had awarded its multi-million pound production contract to experienced independent TV sports producer Sunset+Vine, Premier Sports has unveiled EIGHT of Welsh Rugby’s most popular and trusted rugby experts for their coverage
Premier Sports is delighted to announce that two of Welsh Rugby’s greats Sam Warburton and Shane Williams will be joining the Premier Sports team to feature on some of Welsh professional rugby’s most exciting encounters of the 2018/19 Guinness PRO14 season which kicks off in just over two weeks.
After announcing his retirement from the game in July, with an illustrious career that includes 74 caps for his country with a record 49 as captain, Sam Warburton will be joining Premier Sports as a guest for some of the biggest fixtures during the season, including the Welsh Derbies and the season opener between Cardiff Blues and Leinster on Friday 31st August at Cardiff Arms Park.
Premier Sports talent team for Wales includes a very experienced and popular line-up of Welsh Rugby presenters, reporters and commentators to bring the best match coverage to Welsh rugby supporters and includes: Martyn Williams, Eddie Butler, Ross Harries, Sean Holley, Wyn Gruffydd and Lauren Jenkins (see biogs below).
The line-up in Wales will be joining Northern Ireland’s team of Andrew Trimble, Mark Robson and Graham Little announced last week with more high profile names to be announced for TV teams in Scotland next.
Shane Williams said: “This is an exciting time for the Guinness PRO14 and the Welsh regions in particular. It’s an honour to be a part of Premier Sports inaugural coverage of the Championship and I’m really looking forward to what should be a thrilling and hard-fought season.”
Martyn Williams said: “Having played in the Guinness PRO14 at its inception as a player, it’s been fantastic to see the Championship grow year-on-year and become a truly world class competition. It is a privilege to be part of Premier Sport inaugural season of coverage and I can’t wait for the it all to begin.”
Eddie Butler said: “The game moves forward and coverage of the game moves forward. It’s a real thrill to be involved in this new chapter with Premier. The Guinness PRO14 is a true spearhead of the game in Europe and South Africa, never afraid to embrace new challenges, cross new boundaries and put on a show."
Ross Harries said: “Over the past seven years, I've been privileged to stand pitch side and watch some of the finest players in the world do battle. During that time the Guinness PRO14 as evolved and grown, and it's no surprise that the Championship now contains both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup winners. Few things inspire as much passion as rugby in Wales, and I can't wait to be a part of this exciting new chapter in the Championship’s history."
The team will be working with Sunset+Vine, part of the Tinopolis Group (headquarters in Wales) – and is one of rugby’s most experienced and creative independent production companies with a track record that includes seven years of Aviva Premiership coverage with both ESPN and for the past four years, BT Sport.
Sunset+Vine’s three year deal will see them produce more than 200 hours of live rugby coverage for Premier Sports each season including the annual showpiece final at Celtic Park in May 2019.
Premier Sports has signed a landmark three-year deal with PRO14 Rugby to show all 152 games live each season across the UK including Northern Ireland. The season kicks off on 31st August with all seven games live on Premier Sports and Free Sports on the opening weekend.
Premier Sports is available in 16 million UK homes across Sky and Virgin platforms and to everyone via the Premier Player https://www.premierplayer.tv/ while FreeSports will be available to 22 million UK homes this season across seven different platforms.
Richard Sweeney, Chief Executive of Premier Sports said: “We are broadcasting a Championship full of world-class players, with a team of talent that reflects the ambition and class of the Guinness PRO14. We are delighted and excited to have secured experts at the top of their game talking up one of the most exciting club rugby competitions in the world.
“Premier Sports will be broadcasting every game live which will mean more people have access to the whole picture of rugby across the Guinness PRO14 Championship – that’s more than ever before all under one roof with a mix of match action and news across Premier Sports 1 & 2 and FreeSports.”
Martin Anayi, CEO of PRO14 Rugby, said: “There are few countries in the world that live and breathe rugby like they do in Wales, so it’s fantastic to see the talent assembled by Premier Sports to front their Guinness PRO14 coverage is headlined by a stellar trio of British & Irish Lions alongside faces and voices so familiar to the Welsh public.
“To see Sam Warburton join Shane Williams and Martyn Williams on Premier Sports is hugely exciting, these are former players who know what it takes to win at the very highest level for the Lions, Wales and in the Guinness PRO14.
“Eddie Butler’s voice is synonymous with iconic moments in rugby and to have him in the Guinness PRO14 will add an extra level of aura to the Championship’s broadcasts. Ross Harries, Sean Holley, Lauren Jenkins and Wyn Gruffydd are among the best broadcasting talent in Wales and it’s hard to think of a more complete team to deliver the in-depth coverage that Premier Sports and Sunset+Vine will bring to the Guinness PRO14.
“Following on from Premier Sports’ announcement in Northern Ireland and what is still to come in Scotland, these are incredibly exciting times for the Guinness PRO14 where fans across the UK will now be able to watch all 152 games for the first time.”
Cerith Williams, Executive Producer Wales, for Sunset+Vine said: “It’s going to be a thrilling new season of rugby as the Guinness PRO14 Championship goes from strength-to-strength and our rugby coverage will reflect that ambition. We want to deliver programmes with a modern, sophisticated take on rugby, with high quality match coverage, that’s visually stylish and insightful, original and with eloquent analysis.
“It’s vital that we engage with the many thousands of loyal and knowledgeable rugby supporters in Wales who support the Guinness PRO14 with a talent team that is passionate about Welsh Rugby, informed, honest and enjoy what they do. Our viewers will expect good editorial judgement in a fast-paced environment.”
THE PREMIER SPORT PRO14 TEAM FOR WALES
One of Welsh sport's all-time greats and one of the biggest names in world rugby, Shane Williams scored 60 tries in 91 Test matches for Wales and the British & Irish Lions. Shane was an integral part of the Wales sides that won 6 Nations Grand Slams in 2005 and 2008 and reached the World Cup semi-final in 2011. In 2008 he became the first Welshman to be named IRB World Player of the Year. In April 2014 Shane received his MBE from the Queen for services to Welsh Rugby.
Cardiff Blues, Wales and British Lions flanker Sam Warburton OBE is one of Wales’ most high profile rugby players and ambassadors. Capped 74 times by Wales and a further five by the British and Irish Lions, Warburton has led Wales for a record 49 times. During his international career he has led Wales to a Grand Slam, Six Nations glory and played in two Rugby World Cups. Sam Warburton, 29, goes down in rugby history as the most successful British and Irish Lions captains of all time. He is the only the second man to captain the Lions on two tours and he led the famous touring team to New Zealand. He announced his retirement from professional rugby in July this year.
Ross Harries has been at the forefront of BBC Wales' rugby coverage for the past seven years as the presenter of Scrum V Live, Scrum V Sunday, and the Scrum V International Specials. He's also presented BBC Network's Six Nations coverage, and is a regular pitchside at Six Nations and Autumn Internationals. He's covered the last two Lions tours in Australia and New Zealand, and was the BBC's lead commentator for Wales's 2016 tour to New Zealand. He's also an award-nominated author. Prior to presenting Scrum V, Ross was a presenter and reporter on BBC Wales' nightly news programme, Wales Today.
The voice of Welsh Rugby, the former Pontypool RFC and Welsh Rugby player, won 16 caps for his country, six as Captain between 1980-84 and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 1983. His life after rugby has included working for BBC Wales, rugby correspondent for the Observer and commentating, reporting and presenting for Scrum V, five Olympic Games including covering sailing, shooting and archery as well as presenting and scripting a number Welsh historical documentaries. He is also a respected author with work including The Tangled Mane (Bloomsbury 2001), The Greatest Welsh XV (Gomer 2012) Fiction: The Head of Gonzo Davies (Gomer 2014), Gonzo Davies, Caught in Possession (Gomer 2015), The Asparagus Thieves (Gomer 2017)
Educated at Monmouth School and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, to add to his accolades, Eddie has won Wales Sports Journalist of the Year 2007, Bafta Cymru 2011 (writer) for The Lions of 1971, Royal Television Society winner 3 times (special features).
The former Wales and British and Irish Lions international rugby union player, Martyn Williams holds the record as Wales’ most-capped back row forward with 100 appearances for his country. His 50th Welsh Cap came against England in the 2005 Six Nations Championship playing a prominent part in Wales’ Grand Slam that year and winning the RBS Six Nations player of the Championship. He was part of the British and Irish Lions tours of 2001 (Australia), 2005 (New Zealand) and 2009 (South Africa). He played his club rugby for Pontypridd with whom he won the 1996–97 Welsh league, then moved to Cardiff RFC in 1999, captaining Cardiff from 2002 until 2005 with a glittering career with Cardiff Blues announcing his retirement from the game in 2012. Since retirement, Martyn has worked in Wealth Management for Castle Court Wealth Management ( part of St James Place) based in Cardiff as well as a pundit for the BBC (Pro 14 & 6 Nations) BT Sport (Champions & Challenge Cup)
Former Director of Rugby, now TV Rugby Analyst, Sean Holley has led commentary and match analysis in game and pre/post match for BBC Wales, BT Sport, Sky Sports, S4C and hosts the award-winning Rugby Nation weekly show on Nation Radio. Sean writes technical coaching articles for several publications and has a regular monthly column in Rugby World. Head Coach for Ospreys Rugby for nine seasons he led the team in more than 250 games working with British Lions and Grand Slam winners including Shane Williams, Gavin Henson, Adam Jones, Ryan Jones, Tommy Bowe, Justin Marshall, Jerry Collins, Scott Gibbs, Mike Phillips and many more. Sean has also experience in education, teaching and lecturing including developing the first-ever Rugby Studies course through BTEC and works as an Ambassador for Venatour Travel, Velindre Cancer Centre and Rugby for Heroes.
Freelance rugby commentator Wyn Gruffydd joins Premier Sports and continues his association with production company Sunset & Vine. Since 1991 he has covered 7 Rugby World Cups for S4C, and again in association with Sunset & Vine, over a decade of Heineken European Cup and Challenge Trophy competitions for the Welsh language broadcaster. Much travelled, he is a familiar voice on Sky TV’s coverage of the HSBC World Sevens Series for the past 15years including three Sevens Rugby World Cup competitions in Hong Kong, Dubai and Moscow. He has also commentated on age grade competitions for the sport’s governing body World Rugby for the last ten years along with the Womens Rugby World Cup. Gruffydd this year can look back on thirty years behind the microphone which in recent years has included games in the WRU Premiership and the burgeoning and popular college rugby series Rugby Pawb for S4C. He comes in to the Guinness PRO14 competition and continues his association with Sunset & Vine on the back of a three-week commentary stint of the Tour de France which celebrated a first ever win for a Welshman, Geraint Thomas, on the gruelling premier cycling event in the world calendar.
Since joining the BBC in 2014, Lauren has worked on some of the biggest sporting events across the globe. Career highlights include reporting on the 2017 Lions series in New Zealand and more recently, the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Recent work has included working in Madrid on a BBC Gareth Bale documentary, as well as weekly news reports and interviews featuring on Scrum V Sports Wales and Match of the Day. With a huge passion for rugby at all levels in the game, Lauren has hosted S4C’s weekly rugby show -Rygbi Pawb, which broadcasts the schools and college league in Wales.