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England, Lions & Players Rugby DVD - Reviews

By Patrick
March 4 2005

We are delighted at Unofficial England Rugby to have our new Graphics Editor Patrick review a selection of England, Lions and Players Rugby DVDs. So if you are thinking of purchasing one of the following it might be worth checking out the review and rating beforehand. Inside England Rugby

Inside England Rugby: Sweet Chariot

This DVD was released before England’s 2003 World Cup campaign and is in the form of a fly-on-the-wall documentary. At just under two hours long, the feature gives a behind the scenes look at the England Rugby team giving access to the viewer to places like the dressing room, the training pitch, the hotels, team meetings and much more. I really enjoyed watching this DVD and would definitely recommend it. We all know about England’s much celebrated Grand Slam at the 6 Nations in 2003 and this is a great record of it. You get to see the thinking that went behind every game in the tournament as well as watching the preparation and highlights of the matches themselves. The film is presented on one disc and the special features are good (interviews with players/coaches, deleted scenes and a ‘Making Of’ trailer). All in all, an excellent title which I would definitely suggest you go out and buy, especially since you can now pick it up for just over a fiver at HMV or Virgin Megastore!

Rating: five out of five


Rugby World Cup 2003: Official Review

The Rugby World Cup 2003 has been called the best ever, and with good reason. The tournament achieved record crowd numbers, record television audience figures and record profits. It was without serious incident and definitely achieved its “World in Union” philosophy. Oh and, England won it, what could be better than that? This DVD is surprisingly enough, its Official Review. At just over two hours long, the feature covers every match from start to finish including the opening and closing ceremonies. It’s disappointing then that with such a great competition, its Official Review was little more than a collection of tries and penalties. More of a souvenir than a brilliant programme, the ‘smaller’ games are awarded only around a minute or so of coverage, and a sense of a rushed release is apparent. In all fairness however, it was an interesting reminder of the tournament and showed us the essentials. The lack of widescreen however was a bit annoying, considering in the sporting world, it makes a huge difference; and the special features were a bit lackluster: Pools, Results and Stats. All in all however, considering its current price in the shops (£5 or so), I would say it’s a good buy for any Rugby enthusiast.

Rating: three out of five


Rugby World Cup 2003: Greatest Moments

About a month after the Official Review was out to buy, this was released. The idea is sound: a compilation of the best and most exciting moments of the competition put together on a single DVD. And to be fair, that’s what we’re given. The Greatest Moments feature has a rather poor running time of one hour long, and I can’t help but think that more of the action could have been shown. What was shown however were remarkable things such as the beautiful opening ceremony, Rococoko’s amazing try against the Springboks, Ligairi’s spectacular try against the Japanese, the arm in arm prayer by the Samoan and the South African teams as well as much much more. Oh and who could forget Mike Tindall’s “grab, lift and throw” maneuver he tried out on George Gregan in the Final! I felt the atmosphere of the tournament was captured a lot better here than in the Official Review, and this is definitely a good thing, as that was one of the failings of the latter. The special features on the disc include the New Zealand vs Wales game in full, and a selection of trailers from other LACE Rugby DVDs. Although I’m going to give it the same score, I would recommend this title slightly more than the Official Review.

Rating: three out of five


The Final

Who could or would want to forget the awesome conclusion to the 2003 World Cup? Considered by many as the most nerve-wracking game ever, the DVD of it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Personally I think this should be an essential part of every England Rugby supporter. The Final is packaged very nicely and comes on 2 discs. The first is the version of the match as it was shown on TV (with scoreboard, overlays etc). The second disc is a specially created version in widescreen that offers a completely different view of the game in that it's filmed at eye level on the pitch. To be honest, I didn't think too much of the second version. Yes it was nice to watch, but there were no overlays such as the score in the top left corner; and for example, one particularly heinous omission was instead of following the ball during Jonny's winning drop goal, the camera instead chose to stay on the man himself, negating the desired effect (and no, I don’t think anyone is sick of seeing it! Wallaby supporters not withstanding). As well as this, alas, the commentary is Australian, which does annoy given its obvious bias towards the Wallabies, but that's something we'll have to live with. Special features are quite good: Player Profiles, and an interview/commentary with Martin Johnson. The Interactive Menus are lovely, and attempt, rather successfully, to recreate the atmosphere of the game itself. Buy it.

Rating: five out of five


England’s Story

Given England’s win at the Telstra Stadium on November 22nd, this DVD release is hardly surprising. I was expecting it the moment the thrill and happiness was beginning to die down (a month or so later), and as expected, it hit shops very quickly after the World Cup Final, which leads me to believe that it would have been made even if England had come (gasp!) second in the tournament. I had high hopes for this feature, perhaps un-realistically given its quick publish and was expecting something like the Inside England Rugby film. How wrong I was. England’s Story is presented on two discs, the first dedicated to the story itself, while the second contains the England vs Wales game in full. Special Features include extra unseen footage from the World Cup Final, Player Profiles, and Team Listings. What’s being presented in the film is a breakdown of England’s rise to the Final as well as the outcome of winning the World Cup and returning home. Each game is analysed by coaching staff and players, interspersed with highlights. Unfortunately around 80% of the 2 hour programme is used up with match footage, which gives a sense of cheapness. For those interested, Sir Clive Woodward, Martin Johnson, Mike Tindall, Trevor Woodman, Phil Vickery, Mike Catt and Will Greenwood were those interviewed. In the end, England’s Story is mostly enjoyable if at times a bit lackluster. The DVD sleeve identifies it as “the definitive account of England’s entire World Cup campaign”. That’s all fine, and obviously I bought it, I just wish the ‘definitive account’ was a bit ‘better’.

Rating: three out of five


Champion! From Tears to Triumph

Phil Vickery MBE aka Raging Bull is the Gloucester captain, England prop forward and now a World Cup winning hero, and he’s decided to share with us lowly mortals a piece of his life in the form of a personal video diary. Champion! takes place over the course of a year, highlighting the highs and lows from the 2003 Six Nations, to a serious injury that put him out of contention for Gloucester and the Powergen Cup Final, to the trip Down Under, all the way to winning the World Cup itself. This title is packed with exclusive footage and interviews and gives a much more personal look at the England camp than the Inside England Rugby feature, especially given its amateur filming with handheld cameras. Where else would you get to see things like Phil Vickery in a hospital gown, a group of kids quite confidently stating that Munster would triumph over Gloucester or big man Trevor Woodman shaving up close! I was very impressed with this title. It had very good laugh out loud moments and gave a real insight into the great man’s career. At just under one and a half hours, the running time doesn’t disappoint. Champion! is definitely recommended, however the inclusion of a few special features would have been nice.

Rating: four out of five


Jason Leonard’s Big Hits

It’s hard to imagine a rugby supporter in the world who hasn’t heard of Jason Leonard. Now after having hung up his boots for the last time, the great man himself has released his own DVD. Big Hits is described as ‘an opportunity to watch some of the greatest moments in rugby history” and is presented by Jase Leonard. Everyone’s heard the stories about how he’s one of the nicest blokes in rugby and he certainly comes across like that in this programme. Genuinely great fun to watch, though perhaps slightly short (1 hour), Jase showcases for us some of the hardest tackles, the biggest blunders, and the funniest clips from the game, a great selection of interviews and anecdotes along the way and even a couple of chapters on his own amazing rugby career. It’s all very nicely put together and the interactive menus are great to watch (set in Jason’s local pub!)! The special features definitely don’t disappoint: a 16 minute illustrated interview about the World Cup 2003, a bloomer reel, a selection of facts and my personal favourite: ‘Propping Up the Bar’, an insight into Jason’s preferred drinking game! All in all, an excellent feature.

Rating: four out of five


Lawrence Dallaglio presents Balls and Mauls

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that my local Virgin Megastore was selling Lawrence Dallaglio’s new DVD, only a month after its release, for only £5.99 (reduced from £19.99). I put this down to poor sales, especially considering Jason Leonard’s DVD was only out a few weeks before this one. Unable to pass up a bargain like that, I bought it but having watched it, I was delighted at the fact that I hadn’t spent more. On paper, the synopsis rings virtually identical to Mr Leonard’s feature: an inside look at the greatest and craziest moments in world rugby. The execution however, is far from the same. Even with its measly 55 minute long running time, the action the former England captain presents seems padded out and over-played. Some shots are replayed as many as 3 times in full and I definitely found myself using the fast forward button on my remote a couple of times. It’s very hard not to continuously draw comparisons between Balls and Mauls and Big Hits; for example, whereas Jason Leonard’s acting is commendable and manages to be both playful and serious at the same time; Lawrence’s is nothing short of laughable, and destroys the mood of the programme. With no interactive menus, and no special features at all, I’m wondering whether it’s even worth the current £6 price tag.

Rating: one out of five


Grand Slam Heroes

Which England supporter could easily forget the momentous 6 Nations Grand Slam in 2003? It gave other nations of the world a taste of what was to come. In that spirit, Grand Slam Heroes was released. Those expecting a documentary style look into the 6 Nations campaign will be sorely disappointed as what is presented here are the highlights from all the matches with some extra commentary by England player Will Greenwood. Grand Slam Heroes also includes a second disc containing the entire decider match between England and Ireland in Dublin; a game that was heralded as a spectacular win by a clearly superior English team. What let’s this DVD down slightly are the poor camera angles and the inclusion of only one interviewee throughout the course of the feature. As well as this, the presentation is less than stellar and I can’t help but think that Grand Slam Heroes is more suited to being a souvenir DVD than anything else.

Rating: three out of five


Living with Lions: The Complete Story (1997 Tour)

When I first saw this DVD in the shops, I nearly did a double take on its price tag: a heft £35. There had to be a reason for it, and although my initial expectation of 5 discs may have been a bit unreasonable, I was close…ish: 2 discs. What really sealed the deal for me though, was the fact that Living with Lions wasn’t presenting itself as a 1 or 2 hour programme, but as a 4 and a quarter hour long feature. Better still, you can pick it up at a massively discounted price on The documentary itself certainly doesn’t disappoint either as everything you ever wanted to know about the 97 Tour is in here. The tour to South Africa was certainly one of the most memorable in recent years with the Lions coming one game short of white-washing the Boks, and owning this DVD is definitely one of the best ways to celebrate it! No special features to speak of unfortunately, still a must have for any Lions fan.

Rating: four out of five


Up Close and Personal with the Lions (2001 Tour)

Take Living with Lions, present the tour of 2001 instead, package it a bit better and you’ll get Up Close and Personal. This DVD describes itself as follows: “The video Living with Lions is a fascinating insight into the Lions Tour of South Africa, 1997… but Up Close and Personal goes much, much further – closer to the action, closer to the players, closer to the management – it provides the most intimate blow by blow account of life on tour ever seen.” This is definitely accurate as you get a much more personal look at everything in this programme. Every member of the squad was armed with their own video camera and allowed to film whatever they wanted. Everything you could ever want of the 2001 tour is in here from team talks, to physio meetings, players’ days off, the Matt Dawson enquiry, and even Austin Healey’s antics! The packaging and the interactive menus are a bit nicer looking than in Living with Lions and it’s also available as a 2-disc set (the second being match highlights of the Tests and provincial games). As well as this, the special features are quite enjoyable to watch: Speeches, Social Activities, Funniest Moments among a few others.

Rating: five out of five

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