Home Books Rugby Stars Reveal the Sport’s Seedier Side

Rugby Stars Reveal the Sport’s Seedier Side

Welsh Rugby Union is currently in a state of turmoil, highlighted by the inconsistency of player contracts and some giving up on the “prestige” of wearing “Y Crys Cymraeg”(The Welsh Shirt) for more lucrative contracts in England, Japan and the USA.

In Full Swing

With the Rugby Union Six Nations tournament in full swing, readers may well be aware of the transformation of the Wales team and its new emphasis on youth. However, the key question is whether Warren Gatland can rekindle his past successes and generate the verve, discipline and tenacity to thwart the more experienced opposition.

For example, the laid-back, magical skills of Scotland’s Finn Russell, the enthusiasm of England’s Jamie George, the powerful and talented Irish pack (although without Sexton), the French flair and power, and the potential of the improving Italians. Wales fans will have their hearts in their mouths with the team lacking discipline and a consistent kicker.

Outstanding Successes

Many Wales supporters cling to the memories of the outstanding successes of the 1970s side with players such as Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams and Ray Gravelle. It was the era of hard knocks, no-holds-barred physicality and heavy drinking after the game.

In the engaging, insightful and humorous yet emotionally challenging Rugby Lives. Simon Thomas encourages 26 former Wales international rugby players to engage in reflective conversations on the highs and lows of their careers. They also open up about their life experiences while playing and following retirement.

These absorbing stories embrace the reflections of characters such as John Taylor, John Bevan, Terry Holmes, Mark Jones and others.

Simon Thomas
Simon Thomas

“Acceptable Toughness”

Many recollections deal with the thuggery that went on in full view of officials who viewed it as “acceptable toughness”. I remember while coaching at Wrexham, the team played a “charity game” against the Crawshays representative team of past and present internationals. A similar group to the Barbarians. There was a large crowd at Bryn Estyn Road, and the stand was full to capacity.

At the first scrum, Steve Jarvis, won the ball “against the head” to great cheers from the crowd. At the next scrum, in full view of the crowd, the scrum collapsed. Steve Jarvis was flat out on the ground needing a cold water revival with the magic sponge!

After the game, I spoke with Mike (Spikey) Watkins, the Crawshays hooker, over a pint. It was clear that he felt the need to “sort Jarvis out” since he was firmly of the opinion there was no hooker better than him. He didn’t allow anyone to take liberties in the scrum! When you read his story, you can understand the intense psychological need of players to maintain their international status.

Mental Health Issues

Emyr Lewis, who played for Llanelli, Cardiff and won 41 caps for Wales, highlights how some players endure mental health issues after retiring. He recalls going to a Christian retreat for help and re-finding his moral compass by going to church with his former teammate for Wales, Garin Jenkins, in the Rhondda.

He considers that his renewal of faith has given him a positive purpose in life. It has enabled him to put to bed everything that went astray, restoring contentment and happiness. The remarkable range of self appraisals by 26 outstanding rugby players lifts the lid on how life as a professional sports player, male and female, can raise many personal challenges while they are playing and after packing their kit away for the last time.

These honest interviews will be of benefit to spectators, past players and those still active in sport at all levels.

Rugby Lives book

Bibliographic Information

Title: Rugby Lives
Author: Simon Thomas
Publisher: Y Lolfa
ISBN: 978-1800993990

For more book reviews, click here.

Related Articles

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More