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Brothers in arms

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Carl Hicks Carl Hicks | 19:38 UK time, Thursday, 5 February 2009

It's very much a family affair as the RBS Six Nations gets under way at Twickenham with England v Italy on Saturday.

For the Italians playing in their 10th Championship since five became six back in 2000 the Bergamasco brothers have become almost ever-presents since the younger Mirco joined big bruv Mauro in the side in 2002.

Mauro played at open-side flanker in Italy's 34-20 win over Scoland in their first match and this weekend will rival our own Austin Healey as international rugby's Mr Versatile having been chosen at scrum-half to add to his caps in the back row and on the wing.

Meanwhile for the home side Steffon Armitage will make his debut alongside brother Delon - making them the first brothers to represent England since the Underwood boys Rory and Tony in 1995.

As Rory was roaring to his position as England's top try scorer (with 49) there were regular Twickers shots of mum Annie celebrating in the old East Stand. This Saturday watch out for Mrs Verna Armitage and husband John who we are hoping to hear from in the build-up to Saturday's opener.

OK here's your starter for 10. Who were the last pair of brothers to play against each other in the Six Nations? (Answer below)

Mention of Mrs U reminds me of the survey back in 2002 which found that she was more well known to the British public than a certain Jonny Wilkinson. At that time of course England's home games were not broadcast on terrestrial TV as they had been through Rory and Tony's career.

BBC TV coverage on Saturday begins at 1.30pm when there is a chance to see a superb documentary made in BBC Wales looking back at the Welsh Grand Slam of 2008. This uses "The Cut" footage that our extra, low cameras have been capturing at Six Nations games since 2003 and which has proved so popular in showing the pace and power of the professional game.

From 2pm John Inverdale will be live at Twickenham for an extensive build-up to the first match. Watch out for Sonja McLaughlan's first interview with Martin Johnson, interviews with the Armitage brothers and Andy Goode, Johno's surprise selection at fly-half. Also Keith Wood has been speaking to Brian O'Driscoll ahead of a huge season for the last Lions captain ahead of the summer's trip to South Africa.

Clerc scores against Ireland

England v Italy kicks off at 3pm and will be followed on BBC1 by Ireland v France live (KO 5pm). Ireland fans will not want to be reminded of the late, late Vincent Clerc try that ultimately cost them a Grand Slam in this corresponding fixture from 2007 - which was the historic first rugby union international at Croke Park.

On Sunday we are on from 2.25pm on BBC1 as Wales begin their defence of the title against Scotland at Murrayfield. Every year it seems Scotland are put forward as the 'dark horses' for the Championship, but it is worth pointing out that Frank Hadden's team have beaten all five of the other nations within the past three years.

Before this game we'll hear from Lee Byrne, arguably the player of the autumn internationals and Scotland's fly-half Phil Godman - who also takes on the crucial place kicking duties, an area that cost his side dearly against South Africa in November.

As ever there are lots of ways to enjoy the Six Nations experience with the BBC. All of the England, Wales and Scotland home matches are available in High Definition on the HD channel while Radio 5 will have all the team news and discussion in the days ahead of each match. Watch out too for Matt Dawson's preview programme ahead of every weekend of the Championship.

On the Red Button there will be highlights of every match as well as commentary alternatives for all the different nations. Our popular forums will also be back every weekend starting after the Ireland v France match with Gabby Logan on Saturday. Also hit your red button now and go to the sport multiscreen where there are two streams of preview material plus an entertaining historical review entitled the 'Ruck n Roll Years'.

Martin Johnson briefs his players

On the BBC Sport website too there will be extended versions of this preview material, match highlights and your chance to select your Lions squad for the summer and see how it compares with our panel of experts - Jonathan Davies, Jeremy Guscott, Andy Nicol and Keith Wood.

Finally if you want to relive any match in full they are available on the BBC iPlayer for up to seven days afterwads.

It promises to be a fascinating seven weeks with the six teams more equally matched than at any time in recent years. Wales are the bookies favourites at about 2-1 and would probably carry my fiver too if pushed.

Let's hope the weather clears up around our three venues for this weekend. And I recommend you stay indoors for what should be a cracking start to the tournament.

*The last time brothers played against each other in the Six Nations was actually only two years ago when Rory and Simon Best of Ireland came up against the Lamont brothers of Scotland - Rory and Sean.


  • Comment number 1.

    Can I please implore the BBC's director choosing the camera shots of two things:

    1. Please don't keep to close-up shots of the ruck - viewers have no way of seeing how the backs are lined up and whether they are ready to receive the ball; it makes for a horrible viewing experience.

    2. When the ball is in play (or about to be put into play) absolutely no close ups of player faces, crowd shots, reserves warming up, etc We want to see what's going on on the field.

    These are two of the most annoying traits that sports broadcasting can display. Even MOTD seems to spend it's precious seconds of air time focusing on managers, fans etc instead of the game.

  • Comment number 2.

    I only hope that after the strikes this week (directed at the use of Italian labour in the UK market) there is a respect between the fans when the two nations meet on Saturday.

  • Comment number 3.

    Just to echo the comment I made in Roger Mosey's last blog - very disapointing that in some regions the first half hour of the build up on Sunday is lost to The Super League Show.

    ITV have had alot of flack for a mistake leading to 30 seconds of football being missed last week, but missing 30-minutes of build up (due to poor planning, not an error) of the defending Grand Slam champions opening match of the 2009 Six Nations is just as great a crime IMO.

  • Comment number 4.

    Batsnumbereleven is spot on! To extend his points to the repeat excerpts and the rare occasions when we see club rugby: we do not need:

    pictures of: flags flying; crowd shots ad nauseam; successful kicks at goal complete with run up etc; team sheets; the teams running out; pre-match interviews; post-match interviews.

    We need to see more rugby and more analysis of plays that lead to tries.

    Do I sound grumpy?

    I am!

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    In the past you've had Austin Healey in the stands giving mid-match analysis with graphics and everything. Please don't do this again. It always seems so pointless as you have half time to do that. Far too often you have to cut from replays to an instant try because you haven't been watching the game and we don't see the build up to tries until its too late.

    By the way the long-distance and sky cams are rubbish during live action because we often don't see the ball or what is going on.

    Also why can't Matt Dawson be used on TV? I really hope we don't get Healey Come Dancing inflicted on us too much.

  • Comment number 7.

    Really looking forward to the Six Nations on the BBC.

    But I agree with Brekkie #3, I'm very dissapointed that viewers in the north will miss the half-hour build-up to Scotland-Wales on Sunday, it is something I always want to see and it is a very poor decision.

    I dissagree with Sidcup Kid #5 Sonja is an excellent reporter/interviewer.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thank you batsnumbereleven - completely agree - badly-timed cuts to close-ups that might be OK for some post-match "artyfarty" documentary but stop you from seeing what's actually going on in the rest of the pitch. Very, very frustrating!

    Apart from that whinge, roll-on the kickoff for the annual round of office banter, mickeytaking and all-round top-drawer entertainment. The 6-nations really is the business!

  • Comment number 9.

    I, on the other hand, disagree with Brekkie. Not screening 30 minutes of inane chatter is a far more minor crime than cutting away from live action. Especially when, in place of talking heads, you are getting sporting highlights instead.
    If the Rugby League doesn't rock your boat, how about discussing the Wales-Scotland with your mates in the pub, provding your own build-up?

  • Comment number 10.

    'I only hope that after the strikes this week (directed at the use of Italian labour in the UK market) there is a respect between the fans when the two nations meet on Saturday.'

    I don't want to sound harsh, but I doubt it has even come into the minds of the players. The motivation and result will have absolutely nothting to do with the strikes this week.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    Excellent coverage as usual. Although just a few points

    1} Why when it is Ireland against say France or Italy can we not have an all Irish commentary team. The excellent Jim Nielly and Phil Mathews would have been perfect for todays opener. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against Eddie Butler but Jim Nielly and Phil Mathews would have been perfect for todays match. The same goes for when Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales play each other. Can't we have on BBC Ireland an all Irish commentary team and say an all English commentary team for England etc etc.

    2} I was watching on BBC 1 today and listening on BBC Ulster and RTE. But why oh why did Radio Ulster switch away from the rugby on Sky and Freesat very very very anoying

    3} Also the Red Button option at the top of the screen said choose audio except that was not an option, something which I really missed.

    Still great coverage

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    While watching todays match I was horrified to hear N.Davis prattle on about the high tackle by the scottish player Cross with which I have no dispute, yet he made no coment on the fact that Welsh captian M.Williams commited 2 very serious errors 1st he retaliated by running to the scene and lifing Cross with 2 hands and secondly moving a person with a possible neck injury and possibly causing further injury.

  • Comment number 15.

    After 1 weekend, I must say that the got the England Commentator line up, Nick Mullins ISNT a commentator...I would rather have Brain Moore and Eddie Butler doing England Commentary instead I heard him doing the commentary for the Ireland Game!
    Also why has the other 3 Broadcasters not showing their games in HD?
    Surely the BBC should have been allowed to help out showing the game in HD or even buy the rights if the games were being broadcast in HD.
    Shame the BBC can only show the Home games of England, Wales and will be nice to see all countries games in HD!

  • Comment number 16.

    Disappointed with the pictures from the Wales-Scotland game - so many close-ups of Scrums, Line-outs, Rucks and players running with ball in hand, and no clue what options were available or where the tackles were coming from. 2/10

    On the positive side the England-Italy and Ireland-France games weren't so bad.

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with fitzmurrin #12.

    It would be much better to use Jim Neilly and Gareth Charles on some of the matches. Rather than Andrew Cotter who could do some Scotland matches and others for Five Live/Sportextra.

    This weekend is the best example - for Italy vs Ireland Jim Neilly and Phillip Matthews would be the best choice for commentary.


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