Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

The top 20 rugby books of all time not written by Stephen Jones by David Clarke
December 8, 2008, 10:06 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell | Tags: , , ,

Here is an excellent list of books compiled by Stephen Jones of the The Times.

There is one coaching book in this, by Jim Greenwood. Is it on your shelf?

1. Winning! By Sir Clive Woodward

You may laugh at the idea of Sir Clive being top of the book charts. But before you do, read this outstanding account of the way that the driven, talented, off-the-wall genius put together England’s world champion team, tapping a thousand sources and experiences. Then compare it to the way other Test teams were run and are being run in other nations, and in England. And weep. Winning

2. The art of coarse rugby By Michael Green

These days it reads hopelessly, helplessly outdated, but when Green’s brilliant, funny and devastatingly charming and perceptive memoir of plodding through muddy fields in the Extra B team came out in the early 1960s, it changed rugby for ever. People realised for the first time that they were plodding along in a giant and magnificent freemasonry. Two years ago, its sales reached 250,000.

3. Goodbye to glory By Terry McLean

Tour books are ten a penny, and McLean, the doyen of New Zealand sports writers, tended to be happiest when his lads were winning and the ref was opting for the men in black. But this outstanding account of the 1976 All Blacks on a vivid, violent, politically incorrect and momentous tour of South Africa is the tour book supreme.

4. Total rugby By Jim Greenwood

Powerhouse. As the manual for coaches, unsurpassed. In fact, nothing has come remotely near it. The wise old Scot’s coaching manual has gone through decades of different editions but the clarity is still wondrous. No coach of merit does not know it by heart. Total rugby by Jim Greenwood

5. Stand up and fight By Alan English

Only 80 minutes of a dull Munster day in 1978, when the local heroes beat New Zealand. But what a literary feast that win gave rise to. This classic re-wrote the manual for rugby books by mocking the drive towards unsatisfying surface rubbish. It is of supreme depth and colour and after reading it you will finally grasp Munster, and working-man rugby passion.

6. Rugby: body and soul By Bill Samuel

Uneven and probably not as sustained as the picky reader would wish. But this memoir by Gareth Edwards’ mentor and saviour opens with the some of the greatest chapters ever written on Welsh rugby and rugby itself, and of eras passed in sport and life.

7. Nobody hurt in small earthquake/The boy who shot down an airship By Michael Green

Not strictly rugby books, but the first two volumes of autobiography by coarse sport author and thespian and journalist Green are full-on literary classics, on rugby, journalism, the war years, the lot. Diamonds both.

8. 100 years of Newport rugby By Jack Davis

The greatest rugby club in the world bar none, and the most appealing history by the South Wales Argus’s long-gone doyen.

9. The unbeaten Lions By John Reason

Polemical. This is the story of the 1974 Lions in South Africa. We all thought they were the greatest Lions. We all thought that there are no easy Test series wins in South Africa let alone one by 3-0 with one drawn. The acidic Reason thought otherwise.

10. Barbed wire Boks By Donald Cameron

The 1981 tour of New Zealand by South Africa, the last of the apartheid era, ushered dear old New Zealand into the 20th Century, with riots, civil disorder, police with tear gas and visors, families split down the middle of the argument, matches stopped by demonstrators. Cameron, a decent man and fine old-school writer, rubs his eyes in disbelief.

11. The greatest game ever played By Phillip J Grant

The game in question was the amazing Wales-New Zealand match in 1905 at Cardiff, around which a century’s worth of legends have grown. This is a fantastic, detailed and compelling life and times.

12. A rugby compendium: a guide to the literature of rugby union Compiled by John M Jenkins, literature reviewed by Huw Richards

Remarkable. Simply, this is a book listing and reviewing everything ever written about rugby – every kind of book, pamphlet and jigsaw, from the great authors to the humblest club century brochure. It is lively, too.

13. France – All Blacks, 100 ans de rencontres By Ian Borthwick

You have to speak French, because there is as yet no English translation. The French tend to fawn over the Kiwis like no other nation and this monumental production reports on every game between the two superpowers, with an account from every game from a key figure. Quite beautifully produced and handsome and well written by the Parisian Kiwi, Borthwick.

14. The history of the British and Irish Lions By Clem Thomas

Charming and bubbly and scholarly. The good news is that since the sad death of the much-missed old leviathan, Clem, the book is being revamped by Greg, his son.

15. The priceless gift: the international captains of Wales By Steve Lewis

Everyone to have lifted the chalice, sometimes poisoned, to his lips as Wales leader is profiled here. The busy author has also written One among equals, the story of all the England captains.

16. Change of Hart By John Hart and Paul Thomas

Most Test coaches would have you believe that they are touched by genius. Hart, the Kiwi coach when they won their first series in South

Africa in 1996, genuinely was and is. This is the story of his philosophy and the nest of vipers in which he had to work.

17. Seeing Red By Alun Carter

Brand new, odd and rather good. Carter was a long-time backroom man with the Wales team and is clearly a clever and decent man. There is good stuff here about Wales and parochialism, but also about the intrigue and tribulations and occasional nastiness of Wales under the reigns of Graham Henry, Steve Hansen, Mike Ruddock and Scott Johnson. You realise that the gagging order signed by Carter when he left the post and his natural charm have spared Hansen and Johnson a real going over.

18. Code breaker By Jonathan Davies and Peter Corrigan

This book made two appearances under different titles and reminds you of the horrible mess in Welsh rugby which Jonathan escaped when he left, unloved, for rugby league and also that Widnes, the club he joined, tried to play way out of their league. This man was a prince of Wales and is still vastly underrated. A true great and a solid tale.

19. Centre of excellence: the Jim Renwick story By Jim Renwick and David Barnes

Maybe it is not the greatest of all time but Renwick, the dazzling runner and a personal favourite of mine, brings back warm memories of a time of hard Border glories and a time when Scottish rugby knew what it was about. Today, post-Jimmy, it has no idea.

20. Gold, mud ‘n’ guts: the incredible Tom Richards By Greg Growden

A rather cheapskate effort by the publishers, with punctuation a disaster of seismic proportions. But Growden’s warm and loving tale of an Aussie war hero, Olympian and rugby great, all but forgotten, is superbly instructive about Richards and his era and his country.


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