ARENA SPORT (POLARIS PUBLISHING, dist. BERLINN BOOKS)
(R.R.P. £12.99 HARDBACK)
Let’s make no bones about this; THE COMPLETE RUGBY UNION COMPENDIUM by Keith Young is a book for Rugby fans by a Rugby fan, and it is without a doubt the best collection of Rugby knowledge this particular Rugby fan has ever poured through.
Whether you’re new to the sport or an ‘Old Head’; player; spectator or commentator, this book is an essential companion to World Class Rugby as we currently know it. And the Mathematicians, Statisticians and Quizmasters among you will positively weep with joy over the cornucopia of facts and statistics contained within its pages. Keith Young himself being a Mathematician and Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society (and it shows!), ensures that the tables, lists, facts, trivia and appendices are beautifully laid out, explained and crystal clear for everyone.
From the very beginning of International Rugby around 1871 right up to this World Cup of 2015, the top ten International teams (Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales), along with the 2nd and 3rd tier Internationals (Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Namibia, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Tonga, U.S.A. and Uruguay), are all treated to a potted history from their inception up to the current day, and each of these biographies are followed with the stats and facts of their competition. (And yes; they are all placed in alphabetical order.) Each of these histories are written clearly, concisely and without bias, transmitting the equality of the Rugby Fan’s love of the sport and the teams.
Conceding that the book is statistic-heavy (5,700 entries), makes it in no way less enjoyable to read. It’s informative without being dry, on the subjects of the International teams, but the true joy for fans of the sport is toward the back, in the section titled: RUGBY TRIVIA.
This section takes us right back to the beginning of the sport (1821-3) and Rugby school when William Webb Ellis said “stuff this for a laugh” (I made that up), picked up the football and ran away with it. And to Mr William Gilbert who created the first ‘standard leather ball’, which still bears his name today.
From there we go on a wonderful journey through the evolution of the sport worldwide, onto anecdotes and facts that people will enjoy spouting to friends wherever the game of Rugby is discussed. It does not stop there either. In three further appendices; we are treated to a history and explanation of all the trophies, championships, competitions and stadiums, the homes (originally and current) of the teams themselves.
Overall (to paraphrase myself); this Compendium is the ideal companion for anyone with an interest in International Rugby, and its’ format ensures that it will be easily updated for as long as people continue to play the truly beautiful game of Rugby.
Reviewer : Craig Duffy