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Book - Hard Men of Welsh Rugby - Paperback

Book - Hard Men of Welsh Rugby - Paperback

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ISBN: 9781847713520 (1847713521)

Publication Date: 20 October 2011

Publisher: Y Lolfa

Format: Paperback, 210x135 mm, 144 pages

Language: English

This book looks at 20 rugby union players who fought on Welsh pitches for little but pride and honour in the days prior to the game turning professional in 1995, such as Dai Morris, Graham Price, Ray Prosser, Brian Thomas, Delme Thomas, Geoff Wheel, J P R Williams, R H Williams, W O Williams and Bobby Windsor.

Gwales Review (with the permission of the Welsh Books Council)

This fierce little book is for rugby fans who like their meat red – and preferably raw. A collection of brief, affectionate pen portraits of Welsh internationals famous, or infamous, for their physicality, it also offers a glimpse of a period in the game now almost unrecognisable. Only two of the twenty players selected here played into the twenty-first century and experienced professionalism as we understand it. When we read of Charlie Faulkner giving up his double shift at the steelworks to attend training, or Bobby Windsor changing buses three times in the rain on his way to a Cardiff international, and we realise that to many of these players the possibility of a Rugby League contract meant their only chance of financial security, it brings the hardness and – yes – the violence of their lives into sharper focus.

The author makes no distinction between players such as Mervyn Davies, Delme Thomas and Dai Morris, who withstood provocation ‘robustly’ while themselves always playing within the laws and spirit of this very physical game; those like Ray Gravell and JPR, whose intense patriotism seems to have made them immune, on an international rugby field, both to pain and self-doubt; and others such as Bobby Windsor and Brian Thomas, feared as much by their countrymen as by their international opponents for the lengths to which they would go to intimidate – and sometimes worse. At times there are enough severed ears, bitten tongues and ripped sinews about to make the reader wonder if he (surely not she?) has strayed into a recipe book by the Hairy Bikers.

Lynn Davies is perhaps a little one-eyed – I speak metaphorically here – in his nationalism: in this book, the blame for all nefarious activity is laid at the door of opponents, particularly the treacherous French and brutish Yarpies. At worst, our boys in red will ‘make their presence felt’ or, when provoked beyond belief, ‘get their retaliation in first’.

Davies’s book is a valuable and entertaining resource for the red-meat lover, replete with details of each player’s career. It’s also rich in repartee and anecdote: here you will learn how Dai Morris saved Clive Rowlands’s false teeth, the nature of the joke shared by Ray Gravell and Jean-Luc Joinel beneath a ruck at Parc des Princes in 1981, and why Ray Prosser went into scrums against New Zealand ‘arse first’ in the Lions series the same year.

Meic Llewellyn

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