Summer holidays are a great time to get through some rugby books. Though the men and women of the rugby world might be taking a well-deserved break from the oval ball, it doesn’t mean that we, the rugby mad fans, have to do the same. With that in mind, the gang at the offices of Irish Rugby Tours huddled together and came up with a list of some literature on lineouts, ligaments and lads on tour that we think you might enjoy.
Irish Rugby Tours top 5 Rugby Books for Summer
The Last Amateurs, Jonathan Bradley
In the early autumn of 1997, Ulster suffered a record-breaking 56-3 defeat away to Wasps in front of a jubilant crowd of four and a half thousand. Few would have wagered then that just over a year later they would be lifting the Heineken Cup.
The Last Amateurs by Belfast Telegraph journalist, Jonathan Bradley, tells the story of how a team went from zeros to heroes in the most unlikely of fashions.
This is a compelling read based on interviews with key members of the squad, including David Humphreys, Mark McCall, Simon Mason, Andy Ward and many more. The book focuses on the players, their varied backgrounds and how the team came together to become Ireland’s first European champions.
Proud: My Autobiography, Gareth Thomas
First published in 2014, Proud tells the story of the great centre’s struggle to deal with his own identity. A gay man in an outwardly heterosexual world of rugby, the only place where he could find any refuge from the pain and guilt of his secret was, somewhat paradoxically, on the pitch where he excelled.
All his success didn’t make the strain of hiding who he really was go away however. His fear that telling the truth about his sexuality would lose him everything, drove him close to the edge on at least two occasions, both of which are vividly described on these pages.
As well as his struggles, with his sexuality, we discover much about the former Welsh captain’s leadership skills and his desire to be the best in the game. Winner of the British Sports Book Awards Sports Book of the Year, this is a compelling read of a true rugby trailblazer.
Playing the Enemy, John Carlin
Another oldie but goodie. Playing the Enemy by John Carlin tells the story of the of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final and the role it played in creating a post-apartheid South African nationalism (for a while).
Originally published in 2008, Carlin interviewed many of the big players both within and without the immediate world of rugby.
Much of the squad and its management are involved but so too are Nelson Mandela’s bodyguards, ANC insiders and the head of the apartheid South African intelligence service. Carlin skilfully weaves their lives and reactions to the game into the fabric of South African society during its immediate transition to democracy. This book was the inspiration behind the movie Invictus.
The Oval World: A Global History of Rugby, Tony Collins
Tony Collins tells the often complex history of rugby and its development and doesn’t hide away from the game’s less than proud moments. While the oval ball has united nations such as Ireland it has divided others and excluded groups based on ethnicity. And it we are not just talking South Africa.
In 1921, the Springboks played the Maori All Blacks in New Zealand and won by a point. Because that win was too close for comfort, and would have cut against apartheid theories, Maoris were excluded from selection on tours to South Africa for many succeeding decades.
In 1949, New Zealand’s prime minister, publicly explaining why non-white citizens were being excluded, said otherwise New Zealand would not be able to tour South Africa. There are nuggets like this right throughout this excellent history which will give you a clear picture of the game’s history – both good and bad.
The Battle, Paul O’ Connell
There is violence, silliness and injuries, lots of injuries, in this mammoth biography from the former British and Irish Lions Captain.
We get fascinating insights into Declan Kidney, Eddie O’Sullivan and Joe Schmidt as well as a journey through O’Connell’s head, his battles with injuries, success and the pain-killer Difene.
An intelligent, sports-mad athlete who harboured dreams of being a professional golfer, he took the decision, with some help from his father, to concentrate on rugby. It turned out to be a great decision for Munster and Ireland but only time will tell if his fifty-year-old body will feel the same.