2 mins to read

BOOK REVIEW: Generals of the Rugby World Cup

Sports historian Paul Verdon has produced a comprehensive guide to each Rugby World Cup, told from the perspective of the flyhalves from the winning teams.

Caleb Allison
Fri, 02 Nov 2012

Paul Verdon, the author of numerous historical sporting biographies, has returned with a unique, colourful history of each Rugby World Cup.

There have been plenty of other historical accounts of the Rugby World Cup from other authors, but what sets Generals of the Rugby World Cup apart is the specific focus on the first five eighths (flyhalves) from each winning team.

The book includes the original signatures of each winning flyhalf so far: Grant Fox, Michael Lynagh, Joel Stransky, Stephen Larkham, Jonny Wilkinson, Butch James, Aaron Cruden and Stephen Donald.

"The men who wear the No 10 jersey are perhaps the most influential players in Rugby World Cup tournaments," Verdon says in his introduction.

"They're the 'generals' who move their players around rugby's 'chessboard' – or decide how best to thwart the threat of the opposition."

As with all of Verdon's historical books, the research that has gone into this one is also impressive.

He breaks down each major game in the tournament, providing an insightful overview into how they developed and who the key players were.

There is colour, too – Verdon revisits key off-field moments, such as hot-tempered French coach Daniel Dubroca's assault on Kiwi referee Dave Bishop in a players' tunnel in 1991.

Or the remarks of South African rugby union president Dr Louie Luyt, who seemed determined to offend almost everyone in 1995 by saying the World Cup was back where it rightfully belonged.

But the key feature of the book, as laid out in the introduction, is the analysis of the tournament from the perspective of the key first five-eights.

Verdon interviewed the seven 'winning' flyhalves, and includes a double-page interview from each one about the tournament and their strategies.

All of this is accompanied by colour photos of both on- and off-field action.

While the contents of the book are worthy in themselves, the inclusion of signatures from the seven winning flyhalves makes the book a potential collectors' item.

His 11th work adds to a comprehensive series of historical sporting books, including histories of New Zealand's test cricketers, the 1959 British Lions tour of New Zealand and a chronicle of New Zealand's Olympic medalists.

Generals of the Rugby World Cup is published by Hill-Verdon, $295 plus $20 post.

The book is not available in book shops. To order, contact: Hill-Verdon Publishing, 39 Harbour View Rd, Pt Chevalier, Auckland 1022.

Email: Ph: (09) 846 4991.

Caleb Allison
Fri, 02 Nov 2012
© All content copyright NBR. Do not reproduce in any form without permission, even if you have a paid subscription.
BOOK REVIEW: Generals of the Rugby World Cup