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The Jersey: The Secrets Behind the World’s Most Successful Team By Peter Bills

Release date: 11th August, 2018
Publisher: Macmillan

List Price: £17.99
Our Price: £15.00
You Save: £2.99 (16%)
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It’s not just rugby enthusiasts who will be settling down for Saturday morning’s potentially compelling duel between Australia and New Zealand at Stadium Australia. Fans of every sport will be watching, taking the opportunity to enjoy a sporting phenomenon, for the All Blacks have, incredibly, won more than 77% of the Test matches they’ve ever contested, a record of unprecedented success no other top-level sports team can match.

For the record, they’re 1/4 to win in Sydney and bookies install them at 1/12 to win the return fixture on home turf – the intimidating Eden Park – the following week. New Zealand last lost a Test match at their Auckland fortress 40 games ago – in 1994.

We regularly employ statistics to measure success. In New Zealand’s case, they’re mind-bogglingly impressive: they’ve won back-to-back World Cups; have held the number one spot in world rugby rankings longer than all the other international teams combined and have lifted the Rugby Championship title 15 times in its 22-year history.

Yet there’s more than numbers on a page to the All Blacks (whose first kit was actually dark blue); there’s an aura about them, a pervading sense of invincibility and an arrogance essential at any sport’s highest level. In The Jersey, Peter Bills, who has been reporting on international rugby for four decades (and wrote Dean Richards’ autobiography more than 20 years ago), has sought to capture what pulling on that All Black jersey means.

Bills has enjoyed unprecedented access to dozens of New Zealand rugby greats: from the late Sir Colin Means to Richie McCaw, each providing an opinion on what it means to represent a nation of just 4.8 million rugby fanatics. The scene is beautifully set just before kick-off at the 2015 RWC final when McCaw takes time in the dressing room to reflect upon his position as All Black captain. “Don’t take it [wearing the jersey] for granted,” he tells himself, mindful of the gut-wrenching effort it took to get to this position.

Bear in mind that McCaw was no rookie, a debutant delighted at representing his country. This was his 148th cap, yet still he refused to simply don the shirt, gee-up his team-mates and go out and play. There’s something special about wearing the All Black shirt and in The Jersey, Peter Bills conveys the magic perfectly; few will bet against them winning a third consecutive RWC next year.

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