“This rugby spellbound people”

With only a few weeks to go before the start of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, many rugby fans will be heading off on their holidays in nervous anticipation, hoping that their team will do well in the warm-up matches and will emerge from the strange summer schedule with no serious injuries.

It’s always important to pack a good book to take on your holidays, but even if you’re not jetting off to somewhere sunny, you should grab something interesting to read. If rugby is your thing (which we assume it is, if you’re reading this) then get yourself a copy of Gwyn Prescott’s account of the social, cultural and economic impact of rugby football on the people of South Wales.
“This Rugby Spellbound People” is a detailed and fascinating study of the way in which rugby embedded itself in the fabric of Cardiff society and the villages and towns in South Wales, transforming itself from a fringe activity confined to the middle classes, to the mass-participation sport it became in the twentieth century.

Speaking about the book, Gwyn Prescott (who played alongside Gareth Edwards for Wales as a schoolboy international in 1965) commented,

“In December 1905, The Irish Times despatched a reporter to cover the All Blacks game in Cardiff. Only a little over thirty years earlier, apart from a few young middle-class blades who took exercise by occasionally playing with an oval ball, the game of rugby was barely known in the town. Yet following the historic Welsh victory over New Zealand, that Irish journalist memorably described the excited, good humoured and wildly enthusiastic crowds he witnessed that day in and around the Arms Park as “this rugby spellbound people.” He went on to declare that the Welsh were “undoubtedly the best exponents of the game.”

Wales is certainly a country which punches above its weight when it comes to international rugby, and we all hope this will manifest itself in a victory against England next Saturday, and a successful World Cup campaign in September and October. The fervour with which Welsh rugby supporters back their team means that failure is all the more painful to bear. The higher the build-up, the harder the fall. Gwyn Prescott’s book explains the provenance of this fervour, and will act as a primer to whet the appetite of rugby aficionados all over the world as they wait in excited anticipation for the kick off of the Rugby World Cup.