Enjoying the rugby? Here’s 10 of Y Lolfa’s latest rugby-themed books – from autobiographies, spoof biographies and books exploring the sport, there’s something for all rugby and sports fans!
Hard Men of Rugby – Luke Upton
The true stories behind 20 of the toughest players to ever play the game, from pre-WW1 firebrands to modern-day YouTube sensations. They are shocking, gruesome, often very funny and sometimes tragic, but what unites these men is their total commitment to the sport. Irrespective of size, reputation or opposition, they never took a step back on the pitch. And many were as lively off the pitch as they were fiery on it. In our era of citing commissioners, slow-motion replays and trial by social media, some of their actions are hard to believe.
Featuring exclusive interviews with some of the players themselves, insights from former teammates and a foreword from refereeing legend Nigel Owens, if you love the characters that make rugby great, then this is the book for you.
“This is an entertaining read of even more impressive character. It is personable, readable and will no doubt get you flexing in admiration of these gentle, sometimes brutal, giants of the game.”Jack Porter, thesportsman.com
Saving Rugby Union: The Price of Professionalism – Ross Reyburn
A damning, forensic account of the way rugby union has been mismanaged in the professional era.
Its increased popularity as a spectator sport in the 25 years since it turned professional has thrown a smokescreen over the crisis it faces. A highly physical game has been turned into a dangerous sport by, misguidedly, trying to match the flow of its great rival, rugby league. There is now a worrying drop in male playing numbers in major nations. Commercialism has been allowed to dominate the game. One of rugby’s greatest success stories – the Lions tours to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia – has been severely undermined.
While praising the best features of the modern game, especially the expansion of women’s rugby, the book details the issues that need urgent solutions and provides a template for dealing with the sport’s injury crisis.
‘Saving Rugby Union‘ puts World Rugby, the governing body of rugby union, firmly in the dock, levelling a range of charges against it, especially for the injury crisis which has seen many players having to retire early and even, on sad and salutary occasions, left some young players dead.Jon Gower, Nation.cymru
The Gloves are Off – Glenn Webbe with Geraint Thomas
Autobiography of 1980s rugby union star Glenn Webbe. The Bridgend winger was a real ground-breaker: first black player to play for Wales, first black British player to appear in a Rugby World Cup and first of any colour to score a hat-trick of tries, as well as being famous for the good humour with which he faced the prejudice he encountered.
*Shortlisted for the Rugby Writers Book of the Year at The Telegraph Sports Book Awards 2020.*
“The sort of book you might finish in a day – and then regret you’ve read it so quickly.”Alan Pearey, Rugby World
“Glenn Webbe takes the opportunity to remind us that rugby is after all only a game: one which can dominate your life but still only a game. His contribution is timely and another welcome addition to the rugby bibliography.”Barri Hurford, Welsh Rugby Writer’s Association
Derek and Nigel: Two Heads, One Tale – Derek Bevan and Nigel Owens
Two Welshmen who’ve both been given the accolade of being the top rugby referee in the world, and the only two Welshmen to have refereed a World Cup final. They’ve not only served the game that they love, they’ve contributed to its development and appeal over many decades.
They’re also great friends and two really funny men! That’s what we see here on these pages as they share their experiences on and off the field. When Derek stopped refereeing, he became Nigel’s coach. He then served as Nigel’s TMO for many seasons.
Here they share stories of the game from their point of view: the global travel and village rugby, making difficult decisions and surviving the times when things aren’t going so well, and all those World Cups, of course!
Absolutely Huge – Luke Upton
Absolutely Huge is a spoof biography of a fictional Welsh rugby player, Gethin ‘Huge’ Hughes. Mimicking the standard sports biography format, the book explores the highs and lows of his remarkable and often controversial career both on and off the pitch. An affectionate satire on Welsh rugby and the media hype that surrounds it.
“Gethin Hughes’ story is an Odyssey for our times. Hilarious take on the chemistry between huge talent and the 21st century.”The Guardian
Into the Wind: The Life of Carwyn James – Alun Gibbard
Carwyn James was a genius. He was also a tormented soul. The two sides of his life are explored in this biography, which contains new information and never-before-seen photographs.
Carwyn wore the red rugby shirt of his country, and coached not only the Lions but also his club, Llanelli, to victory against the All Blacks. He stood in a general election, contributed to radio and TV broadcasting over four decades and inspired several generations of students with his insights into literature.
This volume discusses all of those incredible achievements, but also raises a host of questions about issues such as his relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union and the BBC, as well as analysing the missed opportunity for him to coach his national team. It also fully addresses Carwyn’s battle with his sexuality, the lonely years in Italy and the period leading up to his tragic death in Amsterdam in 1983, at the age of just 53.
“Alun Gibbard’s engaging biography is a much needed portrait which succeeds in bringing this enigmatic figure to life for a new audience. The book is a social and cultural account of post-war Welsh Wales, successfully drawing out its complex tensions… This is a rewarding read. It succeeds in being admiring and affectionate, without being sentimental or sensational. It deserves a wide audience.”Lee Waters, IWA Magazine
“This is a mighty good read and Gibbard offers a uniquely personal insight into a character who like many ‘geniuses’ clearly had a darker side… A compelling hugely readable and lovingly researched account of the life of one of Wales’ most iconic personalities”.Laura McAllister, Planet Magazine
Terry Davies: Wales’ First Superstar Fullback – Terry Davies with Geraint Thomas
The post-war period saw top rugby players in Wales achieve the kind of fame once associated with Hollywood movie stars and few captured the headlines more often than Terry Davies. The boy from Bynea, Llanelli, who combined the good looks of a young Robert Redford with silky skills and tough as teak tackling, went on to wow crowds across the rugby playing world through his displays for Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
Terry Davies: Wales’s First Superstar Fullback – the often hilarious tale of a typical working-class upbringing and coming of age with the Royal Marines before finding glory on the rugby field – is as much a social commentary as a fascinating insight into the heydays of amateurism.
From the highs of touring New Zealand and beating the All Blacks in their own backyard to the lows of a career-threatening shoulder injury, his rugby journey, which began as a nervous 17 year old one rainy day up in Ebbw Vale and ended with universal acclaim, is real Roy of the Rovers stuff.
John Dawes: The Man who Changed the World of Rugby – Ross Reyburn
An overdue tribute to one of rugby union’s greatest innovators, the former London Welsh, Wales, British Lions and Barbarians captain, John Dawes.
Part of the book was written after the legendary 1971 Lions tour when author Ross Reyburn was sports editor of the Hampstead & Highgate Express in London. It contains the Welshman’s own vivid account of how he brought his attacking vision of rugby to the highest level, defeating the All Blacks, and also leading the Lions and 1973 Barbarians. To his original manuscript Reyburn has added an intriguing postscript putting into perspective what Dawes achieved as the key figure in British rugby’s renaissance in the 1970s which, ultimately, also transformed the game in New Zealand.
“At long last, John Dawes gets his rightful recognition.”Brendan Gallagher, The Rugby Paper
“So huge does the author consider to be the contribution made by this man from Chapel of Ease, Gwent that he claims for him a more important place in historical terms than legends like Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Gerald Davies, JPR Williams and Mervyn Davies. In 1971, John Dawes led London Welsh to its best ever season, captained Wales to a grand slam and guided the Lions to their historic series win in NZ. And who can forget his part in Edwards’ “try of the century” for the Barbarians against the All Blacks at Cardiff in 1973?As a captain he was peerless; he was the quiet man who got things done. He was the man who made British rugby lose its inferiority complex.”Barri Hurford, Welsh Rugby Writers’ Association
Reasons 2 Smile – Matthew Rees
Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Wales, Lions and Barbarians player Matthew Rees, a key member of the 2008 and 2012 Grand Slam teams, is the most-capped hooker of all time for the Wales national side and has captained both his region and his country.
However, top-flight rugby is not all there is to Smiler’s story. As well as offering insight into Welsh rugby at regional and international level, Matthew also talks frankly about dealing with the bombshell of finding out who his real father was at age 20, and the impact it had on his relationship with his family. He also reveals what he went through after discovering he had testicular cancer at the peak of his rugby career, and how the diagnosis and treatment affected him.
This is not just another rugby biography. Matthew Rees’ is an uplifting and dramatic story which will inspire even non-rugby fans.
“What marks this book out as something special is [Matthew Rees’] account of the illness which over took him in the later stages of his playing career.”Barri Hurford, Welsh Rugby Writers’ Association
The Byrne Identity – Lee Byrne
A childhood on a tough estate in Bridgend. Teenage years on building sites across Europe. Not the typical route to rugby stardom, but one that took Lee Byrne to the very top of world rugby, earning him 46 caps for Wales as one of the nation’s best-ever full backs. This book charts his meteoric rise from Bridgend Athletic to the Scarlets and the Ospreys, winning a Grand Slam with Wales and selection for the Lions along the way.
In this no-holds-barred autobiography, Lee Byrne reveals all about his gambling habit, how he’s come to terms with dyslexia, and how he struggled with depression after his enforced retirement due to injury. He lifts the lid on his refusal to play under Rob Howley, gives us a glimpse into rugby drinking culture and players’ and coaches’ hilarious off-field antics, and opens up about how the death of his good friend Jerry Collins affected him.
All the above rugby books, and more, are available now. For a full list, visit the website: