Sport: Book of the Week - Gareth Edwards: The Autobiography Headline, pounds 18.99; Hardback

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The Independent Online
SOME people are so outstanding in their particular field that they become legends. They are feted by the media; their opinion is sought on anything and everything; sometimes they end up administering their sport once they have retired. It happens a great deal.

Not so in rugby union, though. Just a short while ago Gareth Edwards was named Rugby Player of the Millennium, as laudable to some as it may be debatable to others. He was an icon in his day. A hero to generations of people; a Messianic figure.

It therefore borders on the shameful that the rugby authorities did not harness the popularity and heroics of such players as Edwards and others in the late 1970s and 80s and use them to promote the game and attract more British youngsters to the sport.

Of course, Edwards and several of his contemporaries did not help themselves by earning money from the amateur game, by publishing autobiographies and becoming involved in promotions and endorsements. They became rugby lepers, sullied by professionalism.

There was no doubt they would have wanted to put something back into a game which gave them so much, if they had been allowed to. Edwards admits of his first autobiography written in 1978: "I knew what it meant to write a book, and I am not complaining about that. I knew the rules and what would happen."

But that statement begs a couple of questions. If he now feels it necessary to pen something that goes under the title The Autobiography, what the hell was the first one? And if this is now the definitive version, it surely renders the original tome redundant.

Therefore Edwards has been wandering in a self-imposed wilderness for the last 21 years. If he had not written Volume One, he could have been ploughing his obvious business acumen into marketing the sport. He could have been running the game in Wales or for the whole of the world.

The problem with this book is that it poses questions, but does not come up with any answers. He merely batters out all the old arguments and leaves the reader feeling frustrated that the best years of his life have not been spent "hands on" the game he so clearly loves.

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