This is a must for union fans in Rugby World Cup year.
Sean Smith's glossy BBC publication spans the development of the game from its purer amateur origins to the modern-day professionalism which has threatened to destroy the community spirit it has fostered throughout the years.
But it is more than just a chronicle of the sport's history. This is a thinking person's book, containing reasoned comment, exclusive interviews-- including (just a few) words from All Black giant Jonah Lomu--and a hard-hitting conclusion.
The book's four parts--each of which is given a brief, helpful introduction--examine between them the changing face of the game, with the sport's major playing nations all featured prominently.
Like all other major sports, Union has had more than its fair share of controversy, political interference and in-fighting, which are all reflected here. It meets conflict head on, as the game has done over the years.
But it is not all about battles off the pitch. Legends who have graced the turf of the famous stadiums, plus some of the most memorable matches, are given prominence.
And then there are the photographs, a truly varied and delightful collection of both old and new pictures, including some rare ones out of the archive. Among the best--and probably the most poignant photograph--has to be the one of South African president Nelson Mandela during the emotionally charged 1995 World Cup that was won by the troubled republic on home soil.
All in all, this is a splendid publication which would grace the bookshelves of all sports nuts, not just rugby union fanatics.
If you have not yet seen any of the BBC TV series on the history of the game, which this book accompanies, then this will certainly put you in the picture. --Martine Hunter
From the Publisher
Naturally we love the book, but so does the Press!
Our book, "The Union Game" has had some high praise indeed over the festive period. Mick Cleary from the Daily Telegraph wrote "..Sean Smith just goes for the big picture. But what a canvas he paints. The book is a fattened and well-crafted script of the four-part TV series. It chronicles the history of the game, with all its tawdry twists, its compromises and sell-outs in Vichy, France and apartheid South Africa, its glorious triumphs as well as its fallow moments. The great men are there, too, from the pioneers, All Black Dave Gallaher and Springbok Paul Roos, across the generations to Serge Blanco and David Campese. A fabulous read." Copyright 1999 The Daily Telegraph.