Monday 11 December 2017

Book review: Six Nations double comes under the rugby microscope

Dean Goodison

Six Nations, Two Stories
Six Nations, Two Stories

With the 2015 Rugby World Cup chugging along at pace, there could hardly be a better time to bring a book on the sport of 'egg chasing' to the market. 'Six Nations, Two Stories' is one publication that is looking to take advantage of the microscope currently pointed at the sport.

The premise of the book, as the title suggests, is two stories of Six Nations success. Looking at the male victory from earlier this year is Peter O'Reilly, the rugby correspondent for the Sunday Times Ireland. Delving back into the women's win is freelance sports journalist Kate Rowan.

For the first time ever this year Ireland won both senior rugby tournaments and it's only right and proper that it's chronicled in print. There's an interesting balance struck in this relatively small book - which is just a smidgeon over 200 pages.

O'Reilly and Rowan take alternating chapters, dealing with the women in the odd numbered chapters and the men in the even. It's a clever mix that allows the reader to jump from one set of characters to the other and back again without losing track of the two main stories.

The other plus of the system is that the content never overstays its welcome. There's nothing too in-depth that might excite the die-hards but bore the casual fan to tears. It's this approach that will likely see 'Six Nations, Two Stories' be a success.

The authors use each chapter as a sounding board for one player to talk about themselves, a particular game and their recollections. Interestingly, the ladies outshine the men on this front. Maybe because of their lack of media fatigue, the likes of Nora Stapleton and Hannah Tyrrell open up and delve into their lives, on and off the field, with fascinating results.

Also of interest locally are some early references to former head coach Philip 'Goose' Doyle and his tenure. The Gorey native was in charge of the women's Grand Slam winning team in 2013 and took Ireland to the semi-final of the last World Cup.

Unfortunately, there is one big glaring negative. While O'Reilly is guilty of the offence at times, it's far more subtle. Yet, not one of Rowan's chapters passes without the author bringing herself into the story - a failing of modern journalism and even more egregious when present in book form.

This publication is about a super year for Irish rugby and the last thing the reader wants or needs is the author introducing herself into the narrative. Not a chapter goes by without a cringeworthy injection to the point that Rowan's ease at putting an interesting story across is overshadowed.

So who is this publication for? Well, it's framed in such a way that there isn't really a target demographic. Rugby nuts might hope to find new information in this book and hear from the players they support and follow. The second part of the equation is achieved but there probably isn't much contained within that they don't already know.

The casual rugby fan will, by and large, enjoy the read simply by re-living a famous few months in Irish rugby and getting to know the stars a little bit better. Even teenagers, who aren't always the target market for sports publications, could fancy this offering.

Finally, for the sports fan in general, this is as good a place as any to start to learn that bit more about the sport.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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