It’s all about the oval ball this month as John reviews three of the best rugby books currently available.
Frank and Humorous
The Buck Props Here by Anthony Buchanan is an extraordinarily frank and, at times, humorous insight into 70s Welsh rugby. Anthony relates his early life in Cwmtwrch, a village in the Swansea Valley, his hobbies of raising Welsh Cobs and his enthusiasm for playing football, despite the rugby club being a focus of the family.
Readers will learn how tough it was playing for Ystradgynlais in the West Wales league against other valley teams like; Bonymaen, Rhydaman and Abercraf, for Llanelli in games against Neath and for Wales in Tonga.
He relates how intimidation, “scrappers”, and no-holds-barred play were features of the games. However, he also emphasises the team spirit and how after the game was a “real family occasion”, and the amusing adventures with the boys at home and abroad.
Freezing Cold Treborgan
In contrast to the full-time professional players of today with their emphasis on; organised fitness, weight training and skill sessions, Anthony highlights how working as a collier in the freezing cold and damp of Treborgan exposed him to more basic challenges that tested his strength and determination. This mining work toughened him up for his timer with Llanelli and Wales as an outstanding prop forward.
Wrexham RFC Glory Days
Past members of Wrexham RFC will recall the glory days of the early 80s with players like; Gwyn Harries, Mike Shone and Steve Barrett. Wrexham also won the North Wales championship, defeating Ruthin, Mold and Llandudno and playing Swansea, Newport, Neath, and Preston Grasshoppers.
The success of teams like this one came from amateur players playing for fun, glory and camaraderie. The authors note that the transition to paying players and professionalism resulted in financial difficulties and enormous debts for many small clubs, including Wrexham.
An excellent read for all rugby enthusiasts.
Pulls No Punches
Mike Phillips’ Half Truths – My Triumphs, My Mistakes, My Untold Story, with his co-writer Matthew Southcombe, pulls no punches. Mike shares tales from the training ground, dressing room, clubhouse and social gatherings.
Readers may well find the details of his highs and lows shocking as he reveals all about his career as a firebrand scrum-half for Scarlets, Wales and the Lions.
Mike could boss a game with his speed, tenacity and skill. He may not have been flawless, but he always excited with his gladiatorial performances on the field. Readers will enjoy his recollections of Andy Powell, Jonah Lomu and Shaun Edwards. Plus his experiences in France and with Sale Sharks.
However, there is a danger that people will remember him more for his off-the-field escapades than for his performances as a world-class scrum-half.
Mike’s game-situation persona is different to the fragility displayed when dealing with Warren Gatland, Alun Wyn Jones, his ex-partner Aimee Duffy and tearful conversations with his mum. His new life in Dubai with his wife and children will hopefully allow Mike to come to terms with his life out of the spotlight.
All in all, a book well worth reading.
Hymns and Arias
By the time the March edition of Love Wrexham hits the streets, Six Nations 2022 will be well underway. The challenge is not merely for this championship, but to create a platform to compete for the 2023 World Cup.
On this note, readers should immerse themselves in Hymns And Arias by Max Boyce. Max, the legendary folk hero from Glynneath, combines memories of past glories with tales that will inspire confidence for the future. He brings unique Welsh social and linguistic culture to life, linking rugby to toiling in the pit, valley rugby clubs and singing in chapels.
The words and context of poems and stories such as “I Gave My Love a Debenture”,”9-3”, “The Scottish Trip”, “Ten Thousand Instant Christians”, and “Hop On-Hop Off” will all provoke a smile. You can sing the words of Hymns and Arias with “hwyl and gusto” before the games with England and France. Practise in the Saith Seren or the shower in preparation for Six Nations success.
Thank you for reading ‘Rugby Books Special! A Beautiful Game “Try”logy’. For more book reviews, click here.