How to watch Rugby this week/weekend
Test Rugby won’t resume this year until the Six Nations kicks off in less than two weeks, 10 days to be precise at the time of writing this. URC action resumes this weekend now that the Heineken Cup Pool rounds are finished and we await with bated breath for the start of the Six Nations next weekend. This year sees the first year that we in Canada will be able to watch games live and on demand in the Heineken Cup as our trusty favorite Premier Sports Asia will be showing all the games. Flo Rugby is also an option but is more expensive than Premier and unlike Premier requires a VPN to watch. Also of note the Toronto Arrows have announced their roster and fixture list for the 2023 MLR season, so if you live in the Toronto area get yourselves over to their website and bag some season tickets see link down below.
It has to be said that watching rugby in Canada continues to often be a complex, expensive and frustrating past time. The various competitions are spread amongst a plethora of broadcasters this year, some free, some paid, some requiring a VPN and above all none of it is particularly cheap. Bottom line seems to be that in this country if you want to catch all your rugby this fall/winter/spring reliably you could be looking at up to $40+ CDN a month in subscription fees which is pretty depressing, and is hardly going to help grow interest in the game here. Premier Sports Asia however has us covered in Canada and still doesn’t require a VPN and fortunately has almost 100% of your rugby viewing needs throughout the year. Its extensive coverage of all the tournaments now including the Heineken Cup still makes it our go to choice for rugby watching in this country. Your other option is US based carrier FLO Sports, they also have everything including the Heineken Cup. However, unlike Premier it does require you using a VPN through a US server and we are not sure if they will have the Six Nations.
Here’s what we know so far:
Summer Tests and Tours: Premier Sports Asia will have the whole lot and TSN will have England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales’ tours to the Southern Hemisphere in July. FloRugby is also an option using a VPN and a US server and those interested in the USA’s qualifier for a spot in next year’s World Cup is up for grabs.
Autumn Internationals: Premier Sports Asia, FLO Rugby US and DAZN will be showing all the internationals live and on demand. Premier and DAZN do not require a VPN but FLO does. All three platforms have the games live and on demand.
Premiership Rugby (England): Sportsnet Now+ ,Premier Sports Asia and FLO Rugby with the latter two having the superior on demand coverage
United Rugby Championship (replaces the PRO14): Sportsnet Now + as well as some games free to air on a mix of BBC and RTE Ireland as well as URC TV which works the same way as EPCR TV for the Heineken Cup and Premier Sports Asia and Flo Rugby with the latter two having the superior on demand coverage
Heineken Cup (Champions Cup) – Premier Sports Asia and FLO Rugby (live and on demand) and possibly Sportsnet Now+. There will also be some games available live and on demand on a mixture of the UK’s Channel 4, BBC, RTE Ireland and France 2. EPCR TV will also be broadcasting all games live in Canada for a fee, but games are only available live.
Rugby Championship: TSN (with TSN’s on demand coverage a bit of a bad joke at times) and Premier Sports Asia and Flo Rugby with the latter two having the superior on demand coverage
TOP 14 (France) – Premier Sports UK (not Asia) and with a VPN, subscription arrangements similar to Premier Sports Asia and Flo Rugby
Six Nations (Men and Women’s) – DAZN and Premier Sports Asia (as well as BBC and ITV with a VPN) (**DAZN are only likely to list the tournament a few days before it actually starts.) FLO Rugby also has it but games are only available on demand a week after they have been played so not really much use.
Super Rugby Pacifica – TSN (with probably limited on demand games and being only web based so good luck catching those 1 and 3 AM kickoff times) and Premier Sports Asia and FLO Rugby with the latter two having the superior on demand coverage
Major League Rugby – TSN and The Rugby Network for live and on demand coverage – also advance purchase season tickets are available at a discounted price till November 28th, see link below.
As things change we’ll keep you updated particularly if there are cheaper options.
Like we say, Premier Sports Asia is our preferred viewing source, and for now does not require accessing it through a VPN and a Hong Kong server to view. At $33 Canadian a month it’s a good deal and gets you everything barring the TOP 14 in France. However, Six Nations, English Premiership, URC, Summer Tours, Super Rugby Pacifica, Rugby Championship, Heineken (Champions) Cup and Autumn Internationals are all there so it’s definitely worth it. We were advising against the annual plan even though it is much cheaper, just in case blocking did become an issue further down the road. It would seem that it looks set to continue without a VPN a year on from when we first started using it, so the annual plan is a pretty good deal at $169 USD (approximately $215 CDN). At the moment you do not need a VPN to access it but if you did in the future, as always we use Express VPN and a Hong Kong server with no problems. You still have to list your country as one of the ones listed in the drop down menu when you sign up as Canada is not listed, but you can pay with a Canadian credit card. Some people have tried to download the app, but be advised you CANNOT access it’s content through any of the apps either for Apple or Google Play you can ONLY access the content through the website below. However the website can be easily accessed through iPads, PCs and Macs with no problem and without having to use a VPN:
The other possibility is US based service Flo Rugby and likely to be of interest to those winter snowbirds amongst us who spend time avoiding Canada’s horrid winter down South. It has all the same content with the exception of the Six Nations as Premier Sports Asia but is a wee bit more expensive at $40 CDN a month and you also need a VPN to access except if you’re a Canadian winter refugee down in the States, but like Premier it’s on demand service is generally very good. However, as comprehensive as the service is, we’ve had difficulty playing the replays from our laptops (no problem with live broadcasts however) whereas with Premier Sports it works across all platforms. While this isn’t the end of the world, given that you need a VPN logged into a US server it makes it much more complicated to cast the replays from your phone or iPad to your TV as your Chromecast also has to be logged into the same server which is a pain. Consequently to bypass this you need to connect an HDMI to your laptop which is using the VPN directly to your TV. We’re sure there are probably easier ways to do it but we can’t get it to work otherwise. Like I say it is fine if your happy just watching on an iPad or phone, but otherwise it’s not as easy as Premier Sports which does not require a VPN and is a piece of cake to cast to your TV. As mentioned above live games are not a problem but we have had a lot of difficulty with the web based service for on demand playback. Obviously all of this is not necessary if you happen to be in the US using it as there you can just stream it direct with no VPN. Also although it does have the Six Nations it doesn’t have the games live and is only showing them a week later on demand. However, unless you’re a snowbird we don’t really see it of much value to us here in Canada and if you already have Premier here in Canada then when down in the US you simply use a VPN to log into a Canadian or Asian server (not Japan – but Singapore/Malaysia/Hong Kong all work).
TSN should have Super Rugby again this year at least on their bonus streaming site, both live and on demand (though the on demand side of things can be a bit hit and miss at times). Once we have a schedule we’ll let you know but with games not kicking off till the middle of February we doubt we’ll know much before the New Year.
DAZN has an occasional foray into the rugby broadcast landscape in Canada. They showed all the Autumn Nations series last year played by the Six Nations competitors England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. They also should broadcast the Six Nations this year. DAZN is $25 CDN a month. There is no buildup with DAZN but halftime is no longer simply an endless rotation of NFL scores and statistics, as they at least show highlights of the first half. However for the summer they are showing nothing, so there is very little point in subscribing until February at the earliest. They usually don’t announce they are covering the Six Nations until literally days before it kicks off for some strange reason. (Not very good marketing if you ask us)
We’ve added a Podcast to our repertoire! It is also available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify among others. We talk about the continuing musical chairs in International Coaching now affecting Australia, French form in the Heineken Cup and what it means for the Six Nations and beyond as well as a quick look at the initial Six Nations squads.
We’ve also set up a SuperBru Pool just for fun this year. We’re competing in the URC, Six Nations and Heineken Cup leagues. For those of you not familiar with it – it’s just a fun predictor game, there is no betting involved or financial transactions involved, and it’s a free service. All you have to do is set up a profile and join in the fun. If you watch Two Cents Rugby you’ll know he’s a big fan of it and pretty good at it from what we can gather. Anyway join in the fun and see how good your powers of prediction are. If we get enough people we’ll post the Leaderboard number 1 spot holder each week here and on the Podcast. Let’s get a Canadian Pool going and see if we can’t take on the world with our powers of prediction!
Join The Lineout’s Six Nations Predictor league on Superbru! You can find the pool here:
or by downloading the Superbru app and searching for the pool with code:
Join The Lineout’s United Rugby Championship Predictor league on Superbru! You can find the pool here:
or by downloading the Superbru app and searching for the pool with code:
Join The Lineout’s Heineken Champions Cup Predictor league on Superbru! You can find the pool here:
or by downloading the Superbru app and searching for the pool with code:
United Rugby Championship
This competition replaced the PRO14, between Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian Clubs and resumes for this weekend and then is on hold during the Six Nations. It features teams from these four countries with the added excitement this year of South Africa’s top four franchises – the Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers. Sportsnet Now+ is broadcasting it live and in a very limited capacity on demand in this country. Premier Sports Asia has you fully covered, see link above both live and on demand along with American provider Flo Rugby, although with Flo you will need to use a VPN using an American server, which you do not have to do with Premier and the replay function has issues depending on what type of device you are trying to watch on. RTE Ireland and BBC also showed a large number of the games for free, so if you have a BBC account and/or RTE account, all free and accessible with a VPN, you got to watch many of the games. RTE covered the Irish games while BBC covered Scottish and Welsh games. Many of these games were also available on demand. With the success of the tournament this year, whether or not these arrangements will persist for next season remains to be seen.
The competition resumes this weekend, and although a lot of the big names won’t be present, instead doing time in their respective Six Nations training squads, there are still some fun fixtures to look forward to. Also for the South African sides whose players are not participating in the Six Nations this is a golden opportunity to really take advantage of some weakened Northern Hemisphere sides and boost their standings.
As a result our picks of the weekend kick off on Friday, as South Africa’s Stormers make the long trip to Belfast to take on a depleted Ulster. On Saturday, can Italy’s Benetton without their star players make any kind of impression on a depleted but powerful Munster side in Treviso. South Africa’s Sharks and Lions will be looking to do the same when they travel to Edinburgh and Connacht respectively.
Ulster vs Stormers – Friday, January 27th – 2:30 PM (Eastern) – Premier Sports Asia and FLO Rugby (live and on demand)
Benetton vs Munster – Saturday, January 28th – 9:25 AM (Eastern) – Premier Sports Asia and FLO Rugby (live and on demand)
Edinburgh vs Sharks – Saturday, January 28th – 12:10 PM (Eastern) – Premier Sports Asia and FLO Rugby (live and on demand)
Connacht vs Lions – Saturday, January 28th – 2:30 PM (Eastern) – Premier Sports Asia and FLO Rugby (live and on demand)
You can catch all the highlights on the following two links below, but if you’re a Premier Sports Asia subscriber they also offer highlights versions of the broadcast in addition to the full game.
Heineken Cup (European Champions Cup)
This classic tournament is now on hold until the knockout stages which get underway at the end of March, with the added bonus of three South African sides being included this year for the first time. What’s really exciting for us here in Canada is that unlike the live only and expensive option of watching individual games on EPCR’s website, we now have two live and on demand options for viewing the tournament. Our go to here in Canada, Premier Sports Asia and which does not require a VPN will be showing all the games, and also FLO Rugby in the US is doing the same. Premier as always does not require a VPN but FLO does and the American service is more expensive and not as seamless as Premier’s so take your pick. If you’re escaping the Canadian winter in the US then FLO might be a more logical choice for you, but it’s pretty hard to beat Premier in our view and even if you are in the States you can still log into your Premier account using a VPN connected to a Canadian server.
England’s Premier domestic competition is underway and although we don’t cover it here on the Lineout as it is a purely domestic competition like France’s Top 14 league, quite a few of you have asked us who has the rights for it here in Canada. Sportsnet World has had the rights for several years now, and has had games available live and on demand (though their on demand coverage is extremely limited if you miss games live). Premier Sports Asia also has the tournament live and on demand.
Like TSN’s coverage of Super/SANZAR rugby, games should be live and on demand, however the on demand side of things is pretty poor to nonexistent. Here’s the link to set up Sportsnet World through your cable provider if you haven’t already got it in your TV package:
And here is the schedule grid:
Major League Rugby
The start of North America’s own professional Rugby season is just around the corner and once more Canada’s only team the Toronto Arrows, will get to play at home this season at York Lions Stadium. It was a mixed season overall, last year for the Arrows, but it was hoped that their return to home soil would bode well for a good campaign akin to their standout season just before the pandemic hit two years ago, but last season seemed to be more about rebuilding for what is hopefully a more successful season in 2023. Already the signs are looking good with an excellent roster in place. The Arrows play their first game of this season away on Friday, February 17th against Rugby Atlanta and their first home game at York Lions University Stadium on April 8th against League Champions Rugby New York. As always Toronto will play their games in February and March on the road, due to the weather here in Toronto.
There are various deals on right now giving you an opportunity to make sure you’re there next year to support the boys. More information can be found on the Arrows website below:
TSN covered all their games live and on demand, although most games will be broadcast on their bonus streaming service as opposed to their terrestrial TV channels. We’ll upload the schedule once we get it.
Another option is The Rugby Network. It’s absolutely free and has games live and full replays as well as highlights of all the MLR games. All you have to do is register for a free account, see link below. Content is usually available within 24 hours of the game being played.
General Internet Listings for following International Rugby
One little nugget I would like to share with everyone is this that I came across on CBC Gem. It’s a six part series on the history and development of our beloved game. It is superbly produced and full of fascinating insights with lots of rugby’s famous faces in it. It’s available absolutely free with a no obligation 30 day free trial on CBC Gem, so catch it while you can – thoroughly worth six hours of your time!!!! See link below:
Our YouTube favorite is Squidge Rugby. His highly entertaining and insightful videos on our glorious sport have become the The Lineout’s number one weekly YouTube go to location at the moment. The videos are well put together, have some fascinating insights into the topic being discussed and have a production value that is both highly amusing and ingenious. Well worth your time and more than likely to put a smile on your face over a cup of coffee and provide some talking points with your rugby mates. Here are his latest thoughts on the greatest moments of a fascinating 2022 and the start of his annual pick of players in the key areas of the game:
Here’s the link to his channel:
For a contrasting opinion from New Zealand and our other fan favorite we also really like Two Cents Rugby on YouTube. An enthusiastic Kiwi fan who knows his players and the game and probably has the most extensive rugby jersey collection on the net. Here’s his thoughts on the Eddie Jones and Australia bombshell as well as all of the squad announcements barring Ireland for the Six Nations.
And here’s the link to his channel:
One of the most comprehensive site for International Rugby news is without doubt Planet Rugby see link below:
For following the games if you can’t watch them either on the Internet or Television then they always have a very useful live tracking feature for all the big games, both for the Six Nations and Super Rugby as well as the World Cup. This allows you to get minute by minute updates on the games as they progress on either your computer or smart phone. If you’re on the road, this is a fabulous tool and best of all it’s free, along with their excellent coverage of the world game, and discussion forums (but be prepared to be shot down in flames by some of the more die hard fans if they feel your opinions aren’t well founded). If you’re a rugby fanatic then it’s pretty easy to lose time on this website and well worth a weekly or daily visit.
Another source of excellent international rugby coverage especially for video is Ultimate Rugby. Its video coverage features highlights, interviews and other interesting tidbits of rugby trivia. Nicely produced and well worth spending some time at. It also has a live match tracker like Planet Rugby and one which you can actually post comments on as the action unfolds which is a nice feature.
Our other favorite site is Rugby Pass who some of you may remember used to broadcast huge amounts of Rugby out of Hong Kong and was a lifeline for many of us with a VPN in the days when accessing international rugby in this country was like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Although they are no longer in the broadcasting business their site hosts a huge amount of rugby content and articles on the various aspects of the modern international game. There are documentary videos and weekly specials as well as a ton of rugby journalism and like Ultimate Rugby if you like your stats it’s a good place to go. It’s free for the most part but for a $10 CDN annual fee you get additional access to some premium video content and articles. It’s well worth a visit:
We are now out on the air. Yes we’ve taken the plunge and set up a Podcast. Time and work permitting we hope to put something out every week, usually Wednesdays at the latest. It will probably centre around our weekly wrap of what rugby to watch at the weekend and why, but also more in depth pieces on the big tournaments. But no it won’t be simply someone reading out the latest blog post word for word if that’s what your wondering, although it will feature the posts as a base. It’s all experimental for now and a work in progress but we’re looking forward to the next stage in the Lineout’s development. Who knows maybe there’s even a YouTube channel in our future somewhere down the road!
As mentioned in the most recent podcast there is a series on Amazon Prime documenting the All Blacks 2017 season “All or Nothing” which had plenty of ups and downs similar to the roller coaster ride the team is on at the moment. There are a lot of fascinating paralells with this year, and an insight on some of the personalities involved so is well worth a watch – see link below for a description and if you’re a Prime member well worth a watch:
As always thanks to everyone for checking in, and getting our visitors over the 60,000 mark, including 600 regular followers.
Take care everyone and stay safe.