Discontent over Netflix access for Six Nations documentary as Johnny Sexton focuses on his Last Dance
Teams are having to open up the dressing- and team-room doors, and some are finding it tough to stomach.
At the annual junket to launch the Six Nations championship, invariably held in London, Johnny Sexton was being asked about the Netflix documentary that is covering the championship.
An Italian journalist, in a lost in translation moment, mistook Sexton's 'no, what's that?' remark for an honest admission and set out to explain just exactly what it was Netflix were up to. Drive to Survive was, of course, mentioned.
"No," a smiling Sexton cut in. "I know what it is!"
At another press huddle, the Ireland captain expanded for on a documentary that currently has the working title of 'Six Nations'. "We've been told it's happening, so it'll be interesting,” Sexton said.
"It'll be good for the game, I think. Having them in our environments it'll be a challenge trying to keep some secrets away from other countries! But hopefully we can build a relationship with the guys that come into our camp and be a good viewing for everyone else.”
Sexton was grinning as he made that 'secrets away' comment but the reality is very close to that line. Some of the participating teams are proving tougher to get access to than others. Sexton himself is reportedly not interested in sitting down for the Netflix cameras and has declined the offer for a sit-down interview. He is taking the Max Verstappen route and steering clear of the Netflix crews.
On the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 13:00 below], another Ireland star in Robbie Henshaw, picked two Irish players he reckons Netflix should follow this year. Meanwhile, two Ireland stars have been confirmed as having sit-downs with Netflix for the doc.
Ireland stars confirmed as Netflix interview subjects
"I know they'll want to follow Tadhg Furlong. 100%," Robbie Henshaw said. He also made another suggestion for the Netflix producers.
"I'm just going to say Bundee because I'm good mates with him. He's an exciting character with all his good energies, so I think they'd get some good content from him... No, it's a great camp and a cool environment so I think whoever they film will have good footage."
Tadhg Furlong, who was one of the stars of the recent 'Tackling the All Blacks', has stated that he would much prefer to focus on getting back on the pitch, after recent injury issues, and helping his team chase a first Six Nations title in five years. Johnny Sexton, in his final Six Nations, is in the same boat.
Two players have been confirmed as interview subjects, though. As well as head coach Andy Farrell, the Munster and Ireland veterans Peter O'Mahony and Keith Earls have been mic'ed up and spoke with the Netflix crew.
Farrell is said to have been keen for his assistant coaches to get some spotlight, too. With the likes of Mike Catt, Simon Easterby and, crucially, Paul O'Connell on his coaching roster, that might not be such an issue for the producers and interviewers.
The first rumblings of Netflix unrest came when Wales head coach said, at last week's Six Nations launch, that there could not be complete and full access to everything in his side's camp. Gatland told The Guardian:
"I can tell you now that in a rugby environment, when you are talking about creating emotion, the language used isn’t always appropriate. Especially when you’re talking about nations playing each other."
We then had a City AM exclusive, on Sunday, that stated several of the teams involved were not happy at having to grant close to unfettered access to the Netflix cameras. Six Nations bosses, and CVC [the private equity firm that owns a stake of the championship] may be gung-ho to get the cameras in and around all the action, but some unions, coaches, officials and players have their reservations.
Each union will get a cut of the €1 million stumped up by Netflix for the access and footage rights - with CVC getting its' 14% share, too. That figure would rise to €140,000 per union if the series is a success and a second season is ordered.
Verstappen, who boycotted a few seasons of Drive to Survive, has accused Netflix of 'faking' rivalries and being overly dramatic with some storylines. The F1 star is said to be open for more involvement this year, though, possibly now that he has two world titles in the bag.
A lack of those rivalries - as well as a lot of canned exposition - is what has made the Netflix documentary on tennis 'Breaking Point' such a tepid watch.
To get the best sort of documentary, the cameras and producers need meaningful access and individuals letting their guards down. This is a big opportunity for rugby to grow its' global audience so one hopes these are just early gripes and teething problems.
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