‘Slammed’ BBC Wales rugby documentary review & rating

'Slammed' BBC Wales rugby documentary
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‘Slammed’ is a rugby documentary from BBC Wales that takes a look at the ups and downs of the Welsh men’s international team between 1998 and 2008. There are contributions from big-hitting coaches and players, including Shane Williams, Steve Hansen, Gareth Thomas, Mike Ruddock, Tom Shanklin, and Colin Charvis.

LWOS Rugby casts an eye over, “Slammed” a BBC Wales rugby documentary.

Slammed (a play on the word contained in the phrase ‘Grand Slam’) is an enjoyable three-part docu-series that knowingly plays on the emotional and nostalgic tendencies of your average Welsh rugby fan. There was a concern that there would be a spot of historical revisionism taking place. Thankfully there wasn’t any of this. The program relays the events pretty much as they happened, using archival footage and identified excerpts and full interviews taken with the men and women who led Wales to many highs and lows since the turn of the century.

Slammed opens with Drone Clips and Williams confession

Taking a look at the aesthetics of Slammed, it had plenty of emotive music and stirring match footage. There was pleasing drone footage seeing clips of Cardiff, the Valleys, Auckland, and Sydney. This all dovetailed well with interviews of some of the key players. The opening credits seemed to owe a little bit to ‘Game of Thrones’ musically and in appearance.

If you’re a rugby fan and particularly a Welsh one you will be familiar with all the happenings and goings-on during that time. This article will look at a couple of the less obvious talking points, rather than the standard ones of player-power, Gareth Thomas’ swearing, his appearance on Scrum 5 (Wales’ principal TV show focusing solely on rugby) or whether Shane Williams really hated Steve Hansen. Clue – he did, along with everything to do with Welsh International rugby. Only briefly though, and it was early on in the Hansen ‘new era’ due as much when the coach said he wouldn’t play Shane due to his lack of size, limited physicality, and poor defence. In the last episode though, Williams states that Hansen’s stern words were what he needed; in the end it worked as a positive.

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The honesty of some of the subjects is refreshing – and the admission from Williams especially has seen it trend on social media and in sports radio. Hansen has and is always a topical character of the International game and this rugby documentary shines a direct light on his term. Player honesty is a rarity in the usually sanitized post-match interviews.

Rugby documentary examines ‘tribalism’ in Welsh game

Two talking points this we will examine are, “Tribalism” in Welsh domestic rugby and also the omission of some key figures in this programme. What this documentary seems to say is that tribalism in Welsh rugby was only a negative or destructive force. While this is true if it led to excessive violence on the field between one town or village’s club and another, or between one valley and another. As well as also being true in the sense that it could create club cliques. This could in turn affect morale in the dressing room or on the team bus for example. The reality or bigger picture is a little more complex.

Let’s look at the effects of dismantling the traditional club rugby structure in Wales. Creating a regional rugby format domestically in Wales ushered in a period of great success for the Welsh international side. Warren Gatland’s team being inferior only to the great side of the seventies. However what has happened to community cohesion and Welsh national identity as a result?

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Graham Henry’s suggestion of the regional structure for Wales was in many ways a good one. His and Steve Hansen’s experience of its success in New Zealand made them believe that it would work in Wales. It improved the international team but what happened to Wales’ lower tiers and the grassroots of the game? Issues of identity again seem very pertinent at the present time. The option of Wales playing their games in England for this year’s Six Nations has been raised. Some such as Ian McGeechan, Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies and Louis Rees-Zammitt have come out in favour of it.

It is true that this is not the first time that this has happened. Wales played some of their Six nation’s games at Wembley during the late nineties. This was to enable the construction of the Millenium (now Principality Stadium). Plenty of fans are willing to go over the border so that they can see their heroes compete.

However with many singing the praises of the Gallagher Premiership in England and the possibility of Wales playing their matches at an English venue. What’s to become of the collective Welsh rugby identity?

Admittedly, there are omissions in rugby documentary

This is not a gripe about “Slammed” as such. There can be many justifiable reasons why a person doesn’t want to appear in a documentary. It’s also a difficult task for the creators to interview absolutely ‘everyone’. During the series, Steve Black (during the Henry era), Scott Johnson (during Hansen’s time) and Shaun Edwards (Warren Gatland’s tenure) popped up on camera. It would have been great to hear from them. All three are currently very busy which may go a long way in explaining their absence.

‘Slammed’ BBC Wales rugby documentary – review ratings

For Welsh fans, this program gets four stars out of five (4/5).

It lifts the spirits during what is a cold and grey time of year with the joy of Christmas rapidly receding in the rearview mirror. It is right to reflect on the turbulent times that preceded a golden era.

For non-Welsh rugby fans, it is more likely 3.5 stars out of five (3/5).

A tad too over-emotional possibly? Should we be celebrating reaching number 1 in the world when our rivals have reached several Rugby World Cup finals and lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy on numerous occasions? The big dog’s [Hansen’s] supporters might find this a touch cringe. yet honesty is needed in these times where the game is affected by pandemics and economics, as much as personality and skill.


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