Sport Book of the Week: Confessions of a Rugby Mercenary by John Daniell

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The Independent Culture

A Kiwi good enough to play for New Zealand Under-21s, John Daniell moved via a degree in English Literature at Oxford University to play top-flight rugby union in France for 11 years from 1996, selling himself to the highest bidder.

His account of his time there, based around his last season with Montpellier as they struggled to avoid relegation from the top flight, is an eye-opener – or an eye-closer, as he found "having a dirty fingernail scrape along the back of your eye socket" was the favoured Gallic method of slowing down opponents.

As a forward for hire in the new professional era, Daniell also dealt with dodgy agents, devious owners, manic managers and self-serving team-mates. His dressing-room view is fascinating, wryly humorous and above all honest; mercenary or not, he speaks for many players when he says after coming back from injury: "I love every minute of it... it makes me realise how much I have missed it, and how much I will miss it when I stop." On this evidence, since retiring he has used his time wisely indeed.

Published in paperback by Ebury, £7.99