Rugby fans, it’s time to get lined up as England heroes JAMES HASKELL and MIKE TINDALL take to the road with the world’s most popular rugby podcast – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE RUGBY. After a great night in Cardiff recently, the guys make their way to the Swansea Arena.
The live tour is the first ever outing for the hit podcast which, since launching in summer 2020, has grown to become the UK’s top sporting podcast, with more than 3million listeners and 20million-plus viewers online.
And you can catch The Good, The Bad And The Rugby – LIVE right here in South Wales at Swansea Arena on Sunday, May 15th. Tickets details at the bottom of the page.
Joining James and Mike will be their podcast co-host former Sky Sports’ rugby presenter ALEX PAYNE.
The trio will take to the stage to recreate the trademark banter they have on air, as The Good (Alex), The Bad (James) And The Rugby (Mike), share tales from on and off the pitch for what promises to be a night filled with surprises and laughter.
We’ve been chatting to Mike and James about the tour, the podcast and life away from the rugby pitch.
Mike Tindall is a renowned England Rugby centre back, he was part of the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning squad and captained the national side on several occasions while collecting 75 international caps. At club level, he was a longstanding favourite at Bath RFC before moving to West Country rivals Gloucester RFC until his retirement from competitive rugby in 2014.
Off the pitch, Mike has appeared on reality TV series The Jump and Bear Grylls Mission Survive, and recently joined a special all-male panel on the popular daytime show Loose Women. Mike is also a very active supporter and spokesman for the charity Cure Parkinsons – sharing his experience of the disease through his father’s diagnosis. He also works with Matt Hampson Foundation and Rugby for Heroes.
Mike is married to Zara Tindall, granddaughter of Her Majesty The Queen, and they live in the Cotswolds with their three children, Mia, Lena and Lucas.
So, with a life filled with excitement both on an off the pitch, we had a lot of questions to fire to Mike and James. We had to start with the podcast itself and wondered how it came about, and why you, James and Alex?
“We had worked together on a rugby podcast before – JOE Media’s phenomenally successful House of Rugby. That came about because Alex had been asked to pull together two guys for that podcast – and through a few different options, he came up with Hask’ and myself. He felt we would work best, and thankfully he was right. And that was the formation of the band. We left the House of Rugby podcast in 2020 and started The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast. We knew we would work well together – that was a given – and we had lots of ideas we wanted to explore for our own podcast. So, The Good, The Bad & The Rugby was born.
What we never expected was that the three of us would gain the following we have. James and I knew each other from playing for England, we crossed over for four years until 2011, while he was one of the young guys and I was getting on a bit. Then we played against each other for clubs until I retired in 2014. So, we had a few ‘conversations’ on the field… He may have scored at Gloucester actually, but I gave him a good head start to get there!
The combination of our different backgrounds makes for an interesting mix – even as far back as our schools being very different. We had different roles for England, people have different perceptions of us too. Hask’ is quite loud, self-promoting and will do literally anything. Alex is a seasoned professional, holding it together, and I sit in the middle somewhere – in terms of career, and life in general, but it has been rugby that brought us together as it’s been so significant in all our lives and means we have a great understanding of each other which helps our interaction.”
James Haskell is also a renowned England Rugby and British and Irish Lions flanker, James collected 77 international caps. At club level, he played for Wasps RFC and Northampton Saints in the UK, as well as Stade Francais in France, Ricoh Black Rams in Japan and Highlanders in New Zealand, during a 16-year professional career before retiring in 2019.
Soon after, he flew out to Australia to take part in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here – cementing his place as a TV personality. As well as appearances on shows such as The Chase, A League Of Their Own and A Question Of Sport, James also works as a professional DJ, and is a regular on the after-dinner speech circuit.
James has a number of other podcasts including Backrow Radio, What A Flanker and Couples Quarantine, with his wife Chloe Madeley, daughter of TV royalty Richard and Judy.
James is also a Sunday Times best-selling author for his smash hit autobiography What A Flanker, which he followed up in 2021 with Ruck Me. He has also published some best-selling fitness and nutrition books Perfect Fit, Cooking For Fitness and Rugby Fit.
So James, how did the podcast come about?
“I knew Mike from our England days, and we both knew Alex through his work with Sky and we came together to work on JOE Media’s House of Rugby podcast. Our chemistry just worked really well, so we took it from there for the new podcast.”
For us as listeners there have been many outstanding moments, but what’s been your most memorable on the podcast Mike?
“Without doubt, the Christmas 2020 show stands out… It was ‘lively’, shall we say? We’d invited lots of people on, had a huge list of guests and a big multi-screen set up with them all joining in. We had people who have nothing to do with rugby, like the Rev Richard Coles, comedian Russell Kane and golfers Lee Westwood and Wayne Barnes, as well as huge names from rugby like Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Tadgh Furlong, Nolli Waterman and Jonathan Davies. It was just madness as they just dropped in as we went along – without having a clue what we were up to.
People initially came on for serious rugby chat, and then it descended into a lot of fun. That’s what’s been really good actually, to have players on as they never know quite where it will go.”
And you James?
“All the live shows have been pretty special. Interacting with the audience while also chatting to our guests is a great thing to do. We’ve got well over 10million downloads, we have an average listener time of an hour and 20 minutes – which is pretty much unheard of, so we’re clearly getting it right.”
Mike, you announced the birth of your son on the pod………
“Yes, of course, that wasn’t necessarily planned, but more well timed that it had just happened so it came up as something I’d been doing… Not many people have a podcast I guess, so it was certainly a bit unusual to announce it that way but it saved a lot of time making loads of phone calls!”
What is it you love about The Good, The Bad & The Rugby Mike – and how will that translate to your live shows?
“The best thing about the pod and what we enjoy most is that we never know where it will go. The live shows are often the best ones, and that’s what we hope will translate into the tour– getting sneaky guests in and the unpredictability will be great. Of course, Hask’ has been on his own stand-up tour so I’m expecting him to bring a lot to the table. Hopefully we’ll never do the same show twice!”
James, you actually launched it right in the middle of the pandemic, which in itself came with some challenges, I’m sure. What effect did the pandemic have on the podcast.
“We created The Good, The Bad & The Rugby because we wanted to share something with people. And we went ahead despite all the challenges of lockdowns and Covid-19 as a way of showing that the world would go on.
When we started, the overarching feedback was that we were helping detract from the horrible things and sadness going on, and we were helping people’s mental health. We harnessed that and went with it.
Podcasts had been popular for a while before lockdown. Before Covid, people would listen to podcasts on the commute, then that stopped and they’ve become a more general mainstream entertainment – people listened to them more, but also more people were actually doing them and making their own. A lot of people have podcasts now and use them as a way to express themselves. In lockdown it seemed a lot of people either wanted to just watch TV or they became creative.”
And what about you Mike, how did it feel coming together to film the second series face-to-face?
“Everything for the launch had to be done through lockdown and then on Zoom once we started – which is never the way we thought the podcast was going to work. We always prefer to do these things with people in person. But it allowed us to get some unbelievable guests – we launched with Eddie Jones. We would never have picked or chosen to do it by Zoom – who would, who knew what it was before March 2020? – but it allowed us to use our friendship crew to get the guests we did and that has brought really interesting stories off the back of it, which has ultimately led to a great podcast.
Coming into series two towards the end of 2021 was exciting, being back in a studio together. We’d pretty much had enough of Zoom, Hask definitely had and was about to rip his own head off with being on video screens, so we were ready to come back together but we can still make use of the technology too, so we’ve got a great balance. In the studio though we bounce off each other better, but yes – we were more than ready to be recording face to face.
We had a core fan base from the very start, but another advantage of launching in lockdown was it brought in a whole new demographic of listeners. Podcasting in general really took off during lockdown too, so many more people became aware of podcasts as another form of entertainment, and that has driven more people to the show too.”
Rugby was such a massive part of your life Mike, and I’ve seen how much you loved it during your time in Bath, has the podcast helped fill that void?
“It’s an intense game and an intense way of life that you’ve suddenly left behind when it comes to retirement.
The Good, The Bad & The Rugby definitely helps fill the gap that retiring from the game creates. Any professional rugby player will tell you the bit he misses most is the camaraderie more than actually playing, the locker room banter of being all in it together. With the podcast, as well as the banter between us three, we get the guests dropping in etc. We get older players from my time on the field, then Hask’ brings in the younger guys, and we all have a chat and a catch up.
We always think that for the average punter, it’s like stumbling into the pub and sitting next to three guys who played together and they’re having a chat about the game. They get to listen to that conversation, but they also get those behind the scenes stories from our own experiences of playing. Alex’s brilliance as a broadcaster creates a great atmosphere – while he also, sort of, keeps us on track, as we’ve got such different views of the sport too; Hask’ with his very broken body, Alex with all his years as a presenter, and then my own experiences. Bringing that mix together is really nicely done.”
Is it similar for you James?
“I’ll be honest, it’s been really important for me. I can’t stand still, I’m a workaholic, and the podcast kept me involved with rugby – without damaging myself anymore. It’s a consistent income, plus a chance to perform, entertain and show off a different side of me and that was important.
I have other things I do; my fifth book came out at the end of 2021 and I did some live shows with that, and my DJing, it’s all going pretty well. But it’s the podcast that’s changed people’s opinions of me as we’ve shone a light on some important issues within sport – such as men’s mental health, the welfare of players in particular with issues surrounding concussion, and exposing imbalances in the game, as well as the unfair treatment of the Pacific Island nations.
We’ve been able to get people to come forward and talk about these things, and that’s been a great impact that we’re really proud of.”
We all know family and friends can be our best, but also harshest critics, do yours watch or listen to the podcast, and what do they make of it? You first Mike.
“I get messages from people, when we’ve been talking about something – either they were part of the story, or they remembered it happening, or if we mention someone they get in touch. And that’s quite cool, that players – my former teammates – choose to listen in as well as fans of the game, so we know it’s appealing to a lot of people.
Rugby is one of those games though, you grow up together through the junior ranks, into the seniors at club and country level for all those years. Then you retire and that’s it, you’re apart from these people you’ve been with for a huge part of your life, even more so these days where people move from club to club, or between countries, more. Thankfully, when you do get back together, it’s like you’ve never left and you have those relationships for life.
We will talk about someone on the pod, and then I often drop them a message after as it reminds me we’ve not spoken in a while. It’s a walk down memory lane.”
And what about your loved ones James?
“They love it. They love the camaraderie that comes across, the personalities and learning things they didn’t know about me or about rugby in general.”
So what can we expect from The Good, The Bad & The Rugby Live?
“We are still working on exactly how the live shows will work, but each one will be different, we’ll have different takes.
What there definitely will be is fun and unpredictability, built on the ethics of the pod. There will be insights into each of us, as people and as players. Hopefully nothing too controversial… Although, that’s mainly up to Hask’! But we want the audience every night to walk away having laughed and having had a fun, energetic time… Maybe even a bit of a sing-song?!”
You’re used to performing in front of thousands when on the pitch, it’s going to be a little different in an intimate theatre like St David’s Hall or the Swansea Arena, how do you feel about getting up close and personal with the crowd?
“We hope they will be noisy with cheers and clapping – instead of chanting and singing, maybe?
I have thought about it a bit actually, as I have done a couple of live audience things like this. I joined the Question Of Sport live shows at the London Palladium and it was so nice to have that live interaction – but it’s very different to being in front of the crowd at Twickenham. Between the three of us we bring different things to that live setting, Hask’ is a massive performer and such a natural, Alex and myself less so, but we come together really well. Hopefully we won’t be getting any complaints!”
And what about you James, this isn’t such a new thing for you?
“I’m probably the most used to it from the three of us – doing my own tour shows, stand-up, speaking events, DJing, I’ve done a lot of ‘stage’ type work solo since retiring. Whereas, with playing rugby you’re on a team, the crowds are fun and you know you’re not on your own.”
Okay Mike, what are you most and least looking forward to on the tour?
“Most: The road trips and journeys between venues, as I think we’ll get quite a bit of material from those conversations and what happened the night before.
Least: Spending too much time with Hask’…….
In all honesty, I think we’ll revert to type and it’ll be very much like normal touring life. Hask’ is actually a really good person to travel with, he likes to find places for a coffee and places to see during the day, so I think we’ll be getting some nice locations to stop off at and visit on the way.”
And what about you James?
“Most: It’s exciting to get out and meet fans and to visit places I haven’t been to before, whether they’re the actual tour cities or places we’ll stop off at on the way.
Least: Genuinely, nothing. I love the podcast and the guys, and I love getting out there, so a tour is perfect for me.”
And away from the podcast what keeps you busy, as if we can’t guess?
“I’ve got my little man and the girls, they definitely keep me busy. We also have the business behind the podcast, which is growing all the time. I do a lot of charity work as well, especially Cure Parkinson’s who I work with because of my dad. I still play the odd match for the charities. But as long as I can do all that and spend time with my kids, that’s what it’s all about.”
I guess life is pretty full-on for you too James?
“Lately it’s been writing and then promoting my book Ruck Me, that’s been a big project. I have my own podcast too, as well as The Good, The Bad & The Rugby, music producing and DJing, and supporting the charities I work with.”
You’ve done many things over the years Mike but recently you appeared on a special-edition of ITV’s Loose Women to talk about men’s mental health. I get the feeling that was a really important project for you?
“It was great to be part of that show. Vernon Kay was hosting it and he approached me personally to be on, and we spoke about all sorts of things – our relationships, careers, and most importantly our mental health.
We didn’t expect there to be quite such a reaction to four guys just chatting about ‘stuff’, but if we helped one person realise they’re in a place where they needed help and they reached out because of us – then that’s our work done.
But mental health for everyone is so important, and it’s something we do touch on with the podcast – it’s our way of checking in with each other. While there are a lot of laughs and a lot of fun, it can get more serious at times. We’ve spoken about various issues in the game and in life in general, and we are proud to be able to do that alongside making people smile.”
Finally, let’s finish with the tour Mike. Who will be the most entertaining / shocking / revealing when you’re up on stage?
“Probably James for all of those! But let’s think strategically… I think ‘shocking’ will be Alex, in a more ‘surprising’ sense as we saw a different side to the smooth professional, groomed Alex when we went to Japan so we could get a repeat performance. ‘Revealing’ will be James, he’s always one for oversharing, and not always the things you want to hear either. And that leaves me for ‘entertaining’; that works.”
Okay James, same final question for you?
“Me! Actually, it’ll be fun to see how we do all adapt to the live audiences – so who knows how it’ll turn out…”
Joining the trio on the Swansea Arena leg of the tour is Welsh rugby legend JONATHAN DAVIES who is coming off the subs bench to join them.
Speaking about Jonathan’s addition to the line-up for Swansea, Mike told us…..
“Jonathan is an absolute legend of Welsh rugby and a good friend to us here at The Good, The Bad And The Rugby –so we’re delighted to have him on board for the show in Swansea.”
Regarded as one of the greatest Welsh players of all times – Jonathan Davies won fans for both the rugby union and league codes, competing at the highest levels for club and country in both the amateur and professional eras. The renowned, versatile back, played for Wales for both codes and league’s Great Britain side.
Since retiring from the game in 1997, he has established an equally respected career as a TV pundit, featuring regularly on BBC’s union and league coverage. As president of fundraising at Cardiff’s Velindre Cancer Centre, he’s raised more than £30m.
James Haskell added…..
“Having Jonathan join us in Swansea is an honour – he’s a fantastic addition to the squad. It’s going to be a great night.”
James is also a Times Bestselling Author for his smash hit autobiography “What A Flanker”. He has also published some best-selling fitness and nutrition books Perfect Fit, Cooking for Fitness and Rugby Fit.
If there was a competition for rugby honours, James and Mike would be level scores.
Mike Tindall is a renowned retired international Rugby Union player, with caps for England, Barbarians, Bath RFC and Gloucester RFC. Mike’s premiership career spanned 17 years, joining Bath RFC at just 18 years old.
After 8 years with Bath RFC, Mike moved to Gloucester RFC where he played both 12 and 13. Playing for the England from 2000 to 2011, Mike featured as a core component of the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning squad and later went on to captain his national team. Mike was awarded an MBE in 2007 for his contribution to his sport.
He was selected for the Barbarians squad on their short tour in May 2012 against England, Ireland, Gloucester and Wales. In May 2013, Mike captained the Barbarians against England, and was named a replacement for the Barbarians against the British and Irish Lions as part of a 2013 trip to Australia. Since his retirement from professional rugby in 2014, Mike has played for his local amateur club, Minchinhampton RFC.
And it takes someone special to keep these guys in check on the live dates, and that’s exactly what Alex hope to do.
Alex has been on our TV’s for a long while now, having first joined Sky Sports News in 2004. He fronted Sky’s rugby union coverage from 2012 and has presented over 20,000 hours of live television, over 200 test matches, four Lions tours and more than 50 England internationals. He has covered every major league in the game and interviewed every major star, from Jonah to Jonny to Johnno.
Last year he joined forces with James and Mike to create ’The Good, the Bad and The Rugby.’ Despite representing ‘The Good’, his association with the other two means a once relatively respected broadcasting career now lies in ruins. Alex is happy to admit that it has, at times, been mildly amusing watching James and Mike destroy his reputation. He runs a burgeoning tech business called The Room, which will be his lifeline once the last embers of his media career have been extinguished.
The Good, The Bad And The Rugby – LIVE promises to recreate the magic of the podcast’s weekly episodes, which feature rugby chat as well as wider sporting and pop-culture talking points. Much of the show’s success has been in its core appeal to rugby fans while also engaging a wider audience.
Ben Hatton is Director of Theatre Touring for promoters Cuffe and Taylor, he told us……
“The Good, The Bad And The Rugby podcast was a must-listen hit for sports fans in 2020, and with season two currently making a similar impact, we are excited to launch this tour which will take James, Mike and Alex out on the road with their fans across the country.”
The date at Swansea Arena is tonight, Sunday May 15th. Tickets are limited but there are a few left. You can get yours from HERE.