While the Rugby Championship is in full flow in the southern hemisphere, the last few weeks has seen the start of the northern hemisphere rugby season. After the epic Lions tour to Hong Kong and Australia, the start of the new season had the potential to feel like a bit of a damp squib.
Not so. Controversy reigns supreme. After signing a £150 million deal with BT Sport to televise all their matches, the English clubs have joined forces with their French counterparts to demand a restructuring to the Heineken European Cup.
They have served notice to the current competition and have stated that they will refuse to play in the current structure after this season. While offering to open the doors to their newly proposed Anglo-French club competition to those in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy, they will only allow the top placed sides in the RaboDirect Pro 12 (in which the clubs from these four countries play) to qualify for the new competition – as opposed to the meritocracy that currently exists.
Quite how this will pan out remains to be seen and there is no doubt that the future prosperity of northern hemisphere rugby is on the line
Beyond the club game, the autumn internationals are fast approaching – and there are as many questions to be posed as ever. After their crushing defeat to Wales in the Six Nations Grand Slam decider, will England continue the progress they made in the summer on their tour to Argentina and will they be able to scale the heady heights they reached during last autumn’s incredible victory over the world champions, New Zealand?
With a team chock full of Lions stars, will Wales overcome their usual autumn malaise and stamp their authority on the southern hemisphere giants? Will Ireland enter a new golden era under the guidance of former Leinster supremo Joel Schmidt and give Brian O’Driscoll the swansong he deserves in his final season as an international? And will Scotland be able to build on the promise shown in the Six Nations and on their summer tour to South Africa? Time will tell – and to keep the excitement of this all bubbling along, there are some fantastic new books out now and coming soon to keep you in the mood between fixtures.
The brightest and best rugby books to look out for
Behind the Lions. This sumptuous hardback has been updated to include a new chapter on the Lions’ historic series victory over Australia. It is by far the most engaging history ever written of the Lions – largely because it is told in the players’ words. With four renowned authors from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, this account gets right to the heart of what it means to be a Lion.
Following a tour like this, there are a raft of related books, here are the best of the rest:
- Rampant Pride by Mick Cleary and Ian Robertson
- Matt Dawson’s Lions Tales by Matt Dawson
- 125 Years of the British and Irish Lions: The Official History by Clem Thomas and Greg Thomas
- Becoming a Lion by Johnny Sexton
The Real McCaw
After a six month sabbatical, Richie McCaw returned for New Zealand for their opening Rugby Championship game against the Wallabies – and it was like he had never been away. More than that, seeing him fly around the field it was like seeing the Richie McCaw from ten years ago – but with all those years of experience added into the mix. With New Zealand’s most capped player still going strong, sit back and enjoy the thoughts of the World Cup winning captain in his autobiography, The Real McCaw.
White Gold: England’s Journey to Rugby World Cup Glory
22nd November 2013 marks the ten year anniversary of England winning the Rugby World Cup. To celebrate one of the finest achievements in the history of British sport, White Gold: England’s Journey to Rugby World Cup Glory is published on 1st November. White Gold paints a unique new portrait of the World Cup campaign, analysing head coach Clive Woodward’s life and career and the influences that shaped his rugby philosophies which, in turn, shaped the environment he built for his England players as they pushed to become the world’s number one team. In a style reminiscent of Tom English’s The Grudge, Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, Alan English’s Stand Up and Fight and John Carlin’s Playing the Enemy, it offers in-depth profiles for each of the key players in the team, pits scientific studies into the 10,000 hour rule alongside those of nature versus nurture and examines the broad range of management techniques that Woodward and his back-room team employed in their quest to drive England to the pinnacle of the rugby world.