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The Oval World : A Global History of Rugby

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The definitive world history of rugby from its earliest beginnings to the present day.

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The definitive world history of rugby from its earliest beginnings to the present day.
Rugby has always been a sport with as much drama off the field as on it. For every thrilling last-minute Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal to win the world cup or Jonah Lomu rampage down the touchline for a try, there has been a split, a feud or a controversy. The Oval World is the first full-length history of rugby on a world scale - from its origins in the village-based football games of medieval times up to the globalised sport of the twenty-first century,now played in well over 100 countries. It tells the story of how a game played in an obscure English public school became the winter sport of the British Empire, spread to France, Argentina, Japan and the rest of the world and commanded a global television audience of over four billion for the last world cup final. And how American football - and other games such as Australian, Canadian and Gaelic football - emerged from rugby and highlight just how much the modern gridiron game owes to its English cousin. Featuring the great moments in the game's history and its great names - such as Jonah Lomu, David Duckham, Serge Blanco, Billy Boston and David Campese alongside Rupert Brooke, King George V, Boris Karloff, Charles de Gaulle and Nelson Mandela - The Oval World investigates just what it is about rugby that enables it to survive and thrive in countries with very different traditions and cultures. This is the the definitive world history of a truly global rugby.


Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Book Format
Original Languages
Number of Pages
Tony Collins
Publication Date
February, 2017
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
1.80 x 6.10 x 9.30 Inches

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This encyclopedic hist...

This encyclopedic history of rugby in both of its codes may fairly be considered definitive. Its great length will surely limit its appeal to rugby enthusiasts, and really the author makes little effort to draw in new fans, but the book is invaluable in its niche, for the game has attracted very little academic or even systematic literature. It is difficult to identify ways in which the book could be shortened (though I could have done with fewer, or at least less verbose, match accounts, player biographies, and the chapters on the two world wars were primarily exercises in jingoism). I would happily have traded most of that for fuller description of rules changes, especially in the scoring of the game; these vital topics are handled cursorily, if at all, and large portions of the book would probably make a lot more sense if one knew what the rules were at any given time. I was happy to see that both codes are given basically equal emphasis, and the author injects his interesting viewpoints on the current economics and structure of the game..

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