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Rugby, The Game Of My Life: Battling For England in the Professional Era By Rob Andrew

Release date: 19th October, 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Staughton

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £14.99
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It’s refreshing to report that Rob Andrew’s Rugby, The Game Of My Life does not replicate the all-too-common autobiographical template and subject its readers to a chronological dash through a hugely successful rugby career. Andrew could have crammed in plenty: he won three Grand Slams with England and twice toured with the Lions.

Instead, the former Wasps, Newcastle and England man has written a thoughtful, reflective and at times opinionated book which provides plenty of food for thought for those in charge at the RFU.

Andrew’s opinions are worthy of note. Few would contradict his conclusion that the idea of fast-tracking an accomplished international rugby league player, Sam Burgess, into rugby’s 15-man game was “…an error of judgement and enormously costly.” Burgess wasn’t the sole cause of England’s abysmal showing at the last Rugby World Cup. For this, Stuart Lancaster must shoulder the lion’s share of the blame and Andrew pulls no punches when he says that under the intensity of a home tournament, the head coach “flew directly in the face of his own good judgement.”

By contrast, there’s Jonny. Steve Bates, a former Wasps team-mate, introduced Andrew, then coaching at Newcastle, to a youthful Jonny Wilkinson, a boy who, from the earliest age, was obsessed with rugby. The author isn’t the first writer to conclude that the fly-half’s career was forged by his commitment, determination and self-sacrifice, but unlike many others, Andrew can add detail that enlivens Wilkinson’s fascinating story.

What makes this book so interesting is Andrew’s overview. He’s not content to talk about players, matches and tours, but is eager to offer his thoughts on why the New Zealanders are so much better than the English when planning their national coach succession, for instance. He also believes that a player strike is not beyond the realms of possibility. He has sympathy with club owners who have spent enormous sums of money on players only to see the international season encroach further onto the domestic set-up.

Rugby, he concludes, “is a victim of its own progress”. It’s notable, perhaps that the last word in the previous sentence is not ‘success’, a deliberate omission, one senses, for despite rugby’s increased exposure, Andrew believes it has further to go. It’s a pity that this book may not have as wide an audience as it deserves, primarily because it’s perceived as being one for the rugby purist. To an extent, this is correct, but anyone who simply enjoys watching the game should be urged to tackle it with the ferocity of a Jonny Wilkinson tackle.

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