Writing On Literature

  • This was the Rugby World Cup that was going to extend rugby's horizon. The game would show a surprising new face in unfamiliar surroundings to hundreds of thousands of potential start-up fans and players. Then the IRB decided to give RWC 2011 to New Zealand, and not Japan. This was a gift not just of the Cup, but of the cup too. Not even the flakey All Blacks could fail to win the Webb Ellis trophy with home advantage, though they tried their best, offering at the last a glimmer of hope to anyone who loves the game. That hope was extinguished. The All Blacks held on for their win that had been ordained since the IRB decision in

    Oct 23,
  • I was asked to write something for the Radley College 2011 rugby tour brochure to Australia. My envy of a trip like that just about allowed me to say yes. Maybe there's a spot for a physio's assistant? I have experience in this field. Radley College RUFC in Australia 2011 There’s an old joke in Ireland about a tourist asking for directions to a well-known local attraction.  ‘Aye,’ says the local sage. ‘I know where it is. Only I wouldn’t start from here.’ The same might be said of a rugby tour to Australia. A visiting side from England can expect the sporting welcome to be more traditionally Australian than for anyone else. Australians hate to lose. They hate

    Jul 12,
  • In 2003, I went to Japan as Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo, a post that had evolved from the Professorship held in 1924 by the First World War poet Edmund Blunden. Blunden wrote the prose account of his wartime experiences, Undertones of War, in the shadow of the University's grand Red Gate referring only to some trench-maps and his anxious unforgetting. Blunden's time in Tokyo was immensely productive, inspiring new poems, edited texts, critical commentaries. He also kept up with his beloved cricket (there is a separate chapter on Cricket in Barry Webb's definitive biography). However, my own combination of interests meant that while teaching in his shadow I was presented with a literary scoop, or so I

    Feb 19,
  • I know I keep promising to post up the first pages of J'suis pas plus con, or rather, I promised once and I always keep my promises. I have, however, been distracted by two issues. Computer malfunctions, which are boring. And stash. As an ambitious rugby player, I used to have the same hunger for stash as everyone else.  'Stash' was the stuff that came with selection to a team.  Stash is the extras, the perks, the over-and-aboves, and in those days, before the ease of printing onto synthetic materials, stash was expensive and therefore reserved most often for representative teams.  It was worth having. Typical items would be tracksuits, training tops, match shorts, maybe even a team-branded bag.

    Oct 17,
  • The Real ThingThere’s an old rugby saying: if you’re good enough, you’re big enough.  The actor Matt Damon would have to be very good indeed.  In Clint Eastwood’s new film Invictus, Damon plays the role of 1995 Rugby World Cup winning captain Francois Pienaar.  He is 5 inches shorter and 4 stones lighter – the All Blacks would snap him in half. At 5’10” Matt Damon is also shorter than Nelson Mandela (6’1”), who in Eastwood’s film is played by Morgan Freeman (6’2”).  Winning the World Cup as the shortest man in the room is the kind of exploit that Hollywood loves. Invictus is based on John Carlin’s book Playing the Enemy, which describes Nelson Mandela’s use of rugby to

    Feb 05,
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