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Me And My Mouth by Austin Healey

Release date: 15th December, 2006
Publisher: Monday Books

List Price: 7.99
Our Price: 6.39
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Me and My Mouth
By Austin Healey
Monday Books price: £6.39

By his own admission, Austin Healey is not the rugby world's greatest diplomat. Known as "The Leicester Lip" for his propensity to open his mouth before engaging his brain, he has courted controversy throughout his career, upsetting people from the highest echelons of international rugby down to the humblest spectator.

His career, which ended last year, has been one of significant highs. He went on two British Lions tours and played 51 times for his country, quite an achievement considering the quality of the competition in his preferred position of scrum half. Moreover, he was an indispensable part of the Leicester Tigers team which won four successive Premiership titles from 1998/99 and became the first team to win the Heineken Cup twice.

These successes, however, are as nothing compared to the perceived disappointments and sleights he has felt during more than ten years at the top of the game, and many of his gripes are contained in the appropriately titled autobiography, 'Me and My Mouth'.

Despite joining a fairly exclusive club with more than a half century of international caps, he feels that his appearances for his country were reduced by the notion that he was a utility player rather than a specialist performer.

But it is the tales of injury and recovery that Healey feels were mostly responsible for, in his opinion, a brief international career. There are some startlingly realistic descriptions of injuries and recovery processes, all of which confirm the impression of rugby as a dangerous sport. Indeed, the passage about the life-threatening injury which befell his Leicester colleague Matt Hampson is both poignant and illuminating.

The book begins somewhat slowly and disappointingly. His early life growing up in Wallasey on Merseyside is dealt with perfunctorily, as is his burgeoning rugby career at Orrell. Any enthusiast for the game would really like to have heard more of this period, particularly as it could have thrown some light on exactly why he became such a divisive character.

However, it takes a distinct turn for the better on the controversial and ultimately unsuccessful Lions tour of Australia in 2001. Healey uses a tour diary format which entertains vividly. He is clearly no great lover of Australia or Australians: "We flew to Canberra, an unreal place, a huge city with no-one in it, like everyone has been locked in their cellars. Shame it's not like that in every Australian town."

It is quite obvious that Healey also dislikes Andy Robinson. He considers him to have played a major role in his omission from England's 2003 World Cup squad and, as a columnist during the disastrous 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand, he wrote: "Clive's sending Andy Robinson to a fancy dress party tonight. He's going as a pumpkin, they're hoping that when it gets to midnight he'll turn into a real coach." Recent events will no doubt have given Healey great satisfaction.

Amongst the rancour, the point-scoring and the abuse are the inevitable tales of the young sportsmen and their sometimes amusing, but often hazardous, drunken escapades. Despite the flaws, it is a thoroughly entertaining read, not least because Healey is never one to mince his words. Revealingly, this is Healey's second autobiography in five years, but you wouldn't have expected anything else, surely?

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