Eddie Butler, Martyn Williams and Shane Williams will lead a group of high profile on-screen defections from the BBC to new rugby broadcaster Premier Sports.
The line-up – due to be announced on Tuesday – could include as many as six regular BBC Wales faces and voices who worked on Scrum V and other areas of the BBC’s rugby coverage.
It’s another blow for BBC Wales, who have been steadily losing rights for sports coverage and dropping sports programmes since 2006. Now, they find they are losing staff.
For Premier Sports, however, the recruitment of familiar faces should smooth their way and provide credibility as they begin their first season of a three-year deal.
Ross Harries, who has presented Scrum V for the past seven years, is leaving to be the face of Premier Sports’ Guinness Pro 14 coverage in Wales.
Former Wales captain Butler, who will continue to be the BBC’s main international match commentator, will be on the microphone for the matches featuring the Welsh regions.
Sean Holley, who has been a Scrum V regular in recent seasons, will provide studio analysis, while Grand Slam winners Martyn Williams and Shane Williams will be regular pundits.
Both retired Wales stars have been mainstays of the BBC’s rugby coverage at network level, with Martyn Williams also a regular on Scrum V.
Wyn Griffiths, a highly experienced commentator who has worked for both the BBC and S4C, will also be part of the new team, along with BBC Wales’ touchline reporter Lauren Jenkins. BBC Wales rugby producer Ceri Jenkins is also jumping ship.
Based in Dublin, Premier Sports launched in the UK in August 2010. It is available via subscription through the Sky and Virgin platforms at £9.99 a month. It is also available in high definition through its online Premier player service.
They have pledged to show all 152 games live each season, starting on August 31 when the Cardiff Blues host Leinster and the Ospreys are at home to Edinburgh.
BBC Wales have agreed a deal to show live Welsh Premiership rugby this season, on a Friday night, but they have only signed for a one-year partnership with the Welsh Rugby Union.
S4C will continue to show live Pro14 matches on Saturday evenings, featuring a Welsh region – but without English language commentary options this time – with the coverage produced by BBC Wales.
In recent years, BBC Wales have lost half the live rights to the Six Nations, European club rugby, and are poised to lose their autumn deal for Wales’ November internationals to Sky at the end of this season.
They are also still to agree any new radio rights for the Pro14 with the season just two weeks away.
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