The Rake Meets The Good, The Bad & The Rugby — Three Men Walk Into a Bar...

... and record a podcast, obviously. But The Good, the Bad & the Rugby is not just any podcast. In pulling back the curtain on one of the world’s most popular sports, Alex Payne, James Haskell and Mike Tindall have become unwitting friends to millions. They find an extra seat for TOM CHAMBERLIN...

The Rake Meets The Good, The Bad & The Rugby — Three Men Walk Into a Bar...

The Good, the Bad & the Rugby was not always guaranteed to be a success. It was launched at an inauspicious time — 2018 — when a show about rugby was not really an itch that needed scratching, even though the sport was the third biggest in the world. And this was pre-Covid, of course, when the usual rhythms of life — commuting, socialising — meant that our collective headspace was well occupied, and the podcasting phenomenon was still in its infancy. 

The three presenters — Alex Payne, James Haskell and Mike Tindall — were able to cut their teeth in the medium at what Payne (I think he is the ‘Good’) refers to as the “start of the hockey stick” in podcasting’s remarkable growth. Payne had 20 years’ experience covering rugby at Sky Sports, which intersected with the playing careers of his co-hosts — the lovable bull-in-a-china-shop Haskell and the 2003 World Cup winner Tindall, the man with the greatest mother-in-law in the land (Princess Anne, a favourite of The Rake’s). 

Between them, they amalgamate the essentials for engaging content: witty repartee, expertise, and informative titbits. Moreover, they serve as both reporters and activists for a game that is loved by so many people — cheerleading it while holding it to account. 

The most popular episode of The Good, the Bad & the Rugby is, perhaps predictably, the one in which they interviewed the patrons of the English (RFU), Scottish (SRU) and Welsh (WRU) rugby unions, which may sound bureaucratic to the uninitiated but makes sense when you learn the names by which those patrons are best known: Princess Catherine, Princess Anne and Prince William. 

The Rake had the opportunity to detain Payne, Haskell and Tindall in the Hound Bar at George, in Mayfair, to discuss the state of the game before the Olympics (which still stages a sevens tournament) and the international summer tours. Tindall had a perfect description for their show: it’s like, he said, “drawing back the curtain. Like sitting next to us at the pub, but we don’t know you’re there.” 

Left to right: Alex Payne, James Haskell and Mike Tindall.

What is the origin story of The Good, the Bad & the Rugby? 

JH: Well, Alex got fired from Sky and was unemployable.

AP: Yes, well. I had a wonderful time running around talking about rugby for 20 years, but when I left Sky I got a call asking about doing the podcast. When they asked me who I wanted to do it with, I said that if I was going to get involved, there were two standouts: one is the noisiest man in sport, the next is the best connected. They got Hask quite quickly — if you hear an envelope being opened, he is usually there, you see. Tinds played a bit more hardball.
JH: To some extent I didn’t want to do it, as I was still playing and wanted to get back into [the] England [squad].

AP: I remember the first one we did with the three of us... It was sponsored by Guinness, and you [he points at Haskell] came in and sank a pint as the titles
rolled, and from that moment it just took off, it became the exact show I was hoping it was going to be. Then we just got into it, instead of just sitting and talking about rugby, it became about life, the highs and lows, and people bought into that.

JH: There had been podcasts, but they were largely true crime and Joe Rogan. What we did that was different was film ours, which was quite pioneering. Each one of us has gone through things, too. Tinds has had two kids during this; I have retired and separated, scandal; Alex has had his tech business go up and down, and so we do go on there and talk about being men, the other level of discussing mental health and problems. All of a sudden, listeners would write and say we helped them with this and that struggle, and we gained another responsibility. We have to evolve, otherwise, as the years go on, and we become more and more withdrawn from the game, we become more and more like the other media pundits or the fan looking through an opaque window for insight. 

Alex wears: double-breasted smoking jacket, ivory cutaway-collar sandwash silk shirt, dinner trousers, bow-tie, cotton socks in wine, skull and crossbones velvet slippers in wine, black skull and crossbones silk pocket-square, all New & Lingwood.
Mike wears: Black double-breasted slub-silk dinner jacket, marcella evening shirt, single-pleat barathea evening trousers, silk barathea bow-tie, cotton socks in black, skull and crossbones velvet slippers in wine, all New & Lingwood.
James wears: Black and gold peacock unlined silk dressing gown, marcella evening shirt, dinner trousers, made-to-measure velvet bow-tie, gold skull dress stud set, cotton socks in burgundy, all New & Lingwood; black-tie pumps, property of The Rake.

Would you say you are still a rugby podcast, then? 

AP: We are a podcast that loves rugby. We retain O.G. status because we have been doing it for longer and [for] the access we can get to interesting people. Which is why I say we are a podcast that loves rugby, as when we go to Windsor Castle to interview extraordinary people in extraordinary positions of power, [we] are talking about them and their love of the game, not in-depth analysis. 

MT: We love the game and we love the people who take part in the game. What we want to do is highlight the characters who play the game, as that brings a level of inclusivity to anyone who is out there who listens, or parents who have neurodiverse children who will listen and hear that this game will accept you. Look at Ellis Genge’s story: from the backstreets of Bristol, who had an anti-fight bonus in his contract. The power of rugby is that it takes all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, sexualities, it doesn’t give a shit — no one cares, as you have to be a little bit warped to play the game and it is a great game that brings a mixture of oddballs together to play with an odd ball then bond after. 

What state is rugby in? 

MT: From an English point of view, I think we missed a trick in 2003 [after England won the World Cup]. I don’t think the RFU have ever been prepared to take the sport on as a professional entity. That being said, behind the football World Cup and the Olympics, the Rugby World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, so internationally it is an incredible sport. Where we are lacking is the fundamentals behind club rugby, and what sits below that.

JH: The players don’t let the side down, the product on the field is second to none. I think it is on the precipice. The world has gone on to need quick entertainment, heroes and celebrity. Rugby is complicated, inaccessible and expensive, so the grassroots values are so important, but some of those values do hold it back — it needs to break free and become an entertainment business, like it is in America. I think there’s lots of people with money who will splinter off and create franchises, so you’ll see a New York franchise, a South African franchise. They will go off and create a vision and try to make it, like F1 — big weekends [through] Friday, Saturday, party Sunday, then on to the next city. I think traditional rugby will either re-evaluate itself and grow or it will fade. We’ve lost three clubs. Only seven of all the major clubs made a profit, and one of them made it on to that list because they sold a player that moved the balance sheet.

AP: As a sport it is dying, and it is death by committee. There are too many people with too many opinions with too many vested interests that nothing moves forward. Compare that to something like UFC, where it is one bloke making all the decisions — Dana White. The growth of UFC is a testament to what you can do if you have the right people making the right decisions. When you come back to the Olympics, what that highlights is that it is just another piece of the jigsaw that is miles away from being put together properly. So the Olympics will be sensational, Stade de France will be sold out, it will be the biggest sevens event there has ever been, with [French star Antoine] Dupont at the centre of it all. Every rugby fan will spend three days watching the sevens, we will be captivated, and when that finishes, where do you go? The HSBC Seven Series has fallen off a cliff. That being said, I think we have reached the bottom and are coming out of it again. The marketing is going back to the physicality, the warriors who go out there every weekend, both male and female. There is a lot of positivity in there, the sport has just got to move faster to capitalise. 

Does it help or hinder the podcast to be a campaigning one as well as a spectating one?

MT: That is our job, to sit outside the city walls. If we don’t like what the RFU says, we will say it and invite the RFU on to discuss.

AP: What I love about the show is that we get a lot of high-profile people ringing up, saying, “Can we come on and discuss?” We are not just sitting in a cupboard pontificating, it has to be a debate.

JH: We just had Steve Borthwick [the England coach] on—hedoesn’twanttodointerviewswithanyone,but the podcast he comes on is ours. 

Blackeye Gin 
Blackeye Gin recently won a double gold medal at the San Francisco Spirit Awards. Visit 

During your time together you have also created a gin... 

AP: Blackeye Gin. All 10 major rugby-playing nations have contributed ingredients. It goes back to the essence of the pod, which is doing not just saying. We are trying to raise a million pounds a year for injured rugby players when the game has potentially let them down, [so] they have a source to go to. The first contribution was made to Gary Street, who was the head coach of the Red Roses [England’s women’s team] in 2014, when they won the World Cup, and very sadly had a stroke last year. Because people are buying Blackeye Gin, we can put money towards his fundraising to get him back up and running. It is a passion project, but it is about the three of us keen to do, not just say.

MT: It goes back to our frustrations in the game, of how slow some people move to get things done, so this takes away all the bureaucracy; if this fits in our remit of risk, recovery and research, we can grant that to anyone. We have a board that sits on the fund who have been injured and who can identify where money needs to go.

JH: It is also important that we are funding it independently. The unions will put money towards brain injury, but to be honest, because of vested interests, it is not easy to rely on the data they provide. Also, the gin is the bollocks, it tastes really good. We sat down with the makers and said we want a sipping gin, and that’s what we got.