For the Glory, by Mark Ryan

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The Independent Culture

A quiz question: who holds the Olympic rugby union title? Full marks to anyone who said the United States. This month's decision to reintroduce the sport, albeit in sevens form, to the 2016 Games after a 92-year gap makes this tale of their triumph timely, although the IOC must hope for a less disgraceful final than that in Paris in 1924.

France, losing finalists to the US four years earlier, were confident of revenge and, when things didn't go their way, resorted to every dirty trick in the book while the home crowd beat up the heavily outnumbered US fans.

One incident captures the mood: at the final whistle a US player offered to swap shirts, and as he pulled his own over his head he was kicked in the goolies.

Mark Ryan's device of telling the story through the eyes of two players – phlegmatic US captain "Babe" Slater and their sparky scrum-half Rudy Scholz – is rather forced, and the long explanation of rugby's rules, obviously intended for an American audience, slows the narrative. But it is an absorbing account of one of the Olympic movement's darkest days.

Published in hardback by JR Books, £16.99

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