Rugby Union Book Review: A tough view from the top

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The Independent Online
DALLAGLIO ON RUGBY by LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO

Not so long ago, in a town in France, English rugby's future hung in the balance. Nothing new in that really. But, to be more accurate, the very life of the country's future leader lay in the firm grip of the behemoth lock, Norm Hadley of Canada. It happened on one of Wasps' regular visits to St Jean de Luz in the south-west of France where they were taking part in a three-match tournament.

The then tenderfoot embryonic England captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, found himself the butt for the touring humour and the fag of the tour. In his words: "There was a certain amount of 'let-the-new-boy-do-it' mentality." And boy did the new man have to do it. The players' kit, which had been hanging out to dry from the window of their hotel room, had been blown down to a ledge below, and "it became clear to everyone else I was the answer to the problem", explains Dallaglio in Dallaglio On Rugby - Know the Modern Game (Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 16.99), which he co-wrote with Chris Jones. The 6ft 4in youngster agreed to be suspended upside down out of the window, with the 20st, 6ft 7in Hadley keeping a firm grip on his ankles while he was swung from side to side pendulum-like in an effort to scoop up the scattered items of kit.

These days it is unlikely Dallaglio would jeopardise his life in such an escapade - he may put his body on the line for his country but only on active service, because he loves his sport. "This is a sport that consumes me with a passion," he declares. That passion extends beyond his own participation. "This book is for players who want to get to the top of their game, but it is for the onlookers too, so that they can understand the stresses and the calculations of the modern game at the highest level."

Dallaglio has written this book with Chris Jones, the respected Evening Standard rugby correspondent, but it is no rewrite of the rule books. Dallaglio's own interpretations are heavily imprinted on each section, be it a breakdown of each position, or a clear and concise analysis of every aspect. The late tackle and the high tackle take on particular significance in the light of last weekend when Dallaglio was allegedly the victim of the combination, for which Richmond's Scott Quinnell was sent off. Dallaglio writes: "The late tackle is not a laughing matter. The high tackle, like the late tackle, is something we do not want in the game."

Dallaglio is a thinker on the game, but he is also forthright in his views. Nothing and no one is too big or too hard for this most impressive of players. As he has proved time and again on the field he is not afraid to tackle anything. Of the new stadium at Twickenham, he says: "[It] has lost some of its atmosphere... it is still a special ground... but I believe it is beaten by other grounds... my favourites would be Kings Park in Durban, Newlands in Cape Town, and the new Murrayfield."

The heresy does not stop there. The new age of professionalism is also discussed in a chapter headed appropriately, and thoughtfully, "Bar Talk". "I admit the game is bound to have lost something by going pro." And has it gained anything? Apparently so. "I see a lot of young guys who have all the trappings of success - the mobile phone, club car, branded leisure wear and big salary - and haven't really had to do an awful lot."

This book should provoke lively discussion. It is well produced, well written and, for the genre, possibly the best on the market.

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