Monday, 29 August 2011


This book is brilliant for rugby union lovers.

Football has always been a big part of my life. Like millions of us, I can mark my life's history by what was happening in the world of football. In fact, if I want to remember a year, that's often what I resort to.

I remember that my mum died in 1992 when Leeds United had just become champions.

I know Leeds lost 5-1 to Portsmouth the day after my daughter was born.

The day I met my wife Leeds won 3-1 at Liverpool.

It was the photos in this book that made me realise rugby may have a similar role to play. Sometimes when you look at an image it takes you back. This book did that.

Bill Beaumont shaking hands with JPR Williams was the main one. As soon as I saw it, there I was in my grandad's flat in North Yorkshire, watching the Five Nations. We watched loads of live sport together. But he died twenty years ago and I forget him for weeks at a time. This book brought him back.

The face of Gareth Edwards lining up to play England in that amazing Welsh team.

Oh yes, and Martin Johnson lifting the Webb Ellis trophy. I watched that with my daughter - aged two weeks - on my knee. She was born a month early and only opened her eyes for twenty minutes each day for the first month. She opened her eyes for that.

But the pictures throughout this book are amazing. A huge amount of research and thought has been put into the pictures. And it pays off.

The text is good too. It focuses on key players and the last six decades, with particular emphasis on the changes in the game around professionalism. I learned a lot about rugby union that I never knew. On a par with Geoffrey Moorhouse's magnificent history of Rugby League.

I can't think of a better Christmas present than this book for a rugby union fan - apart from their team winning the World Cup.

International Rugby Union by Peter Bills is published by Carlton and its list price is £25, but I expect it'll be in bookshop and online offers in September.

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