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Nine Lives by Matt Dawson

Release date: 09th February, 2004
Publisher: Harper Collins Willow

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £13.29
You Save: £5.7 (30%)
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If there was one player who blossomed more than any other during England's tumultuous Australian autumn, it was Matt Dawson, now the most capped England rugby scrum half of all time.

The World Cup win and the accompanying financial benefits of professional rugby at its highest level are all a far cry from Birkenhead where Dawson was born in 1972. Previously famous only for its art deco swimming baths and as the first stop on the Mersey Ferry, Birkenhead now boasts its own international sporting son. Indeed, it's entirely possible that Dawson's sporting career could have taken a completely different path as he played football at right back for the Chelsea Boys team and is an accomplished cricketer, having turned out as wicket keeper for Buckinghamshire.

But it was to be rugby at which Dawson, the traditional all-rounder, excelled. His tale and his career has straddled the most crucial period in the game's history as first class rugby transformed itself from an amateur pursuit to fast-moving, gladiatorial combat. There are many amusing and hard hitting anecdotes on the way as Dawson moved from working as a security guard and a not altogether successful advertising salesman to full-time rugby star.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Dawson's take on both sides of the game as it developed into a full-time professional occupation. He has clearly partaken in his fair share of the alcohol-induced post-match rugby games, occasionally with hilarious consequences, but now has his diet and drinking regulated by his club and England's dietary advisers. In many respects, the book offers a broader perspective than say, 'Muddied Oafs' by Richard Beard which, because the author was an enthusiastic amateur, managed to be superb on rugby life at Midsomer Norton but didn't include first hand reference to for the professional game. Dawson and his co-author, Alex Spink, editor of Rugby Union's 'Who's Who', have managed to marry the professional perspective and for this reason, the book is worth reading.

It will come as no surprise to learn that throughout 'Nine Lives' Dawson does not waver in his occasionally controversial opinions. It's an approach which has got the scrum half into trouble in the past, most recently when, during the Lions Tour in 2001, he spoke out against the punishing schedules, disenchanted players and apparent lack of management support in an article published in a national newspaper. He was on the verge of being sent home in disgrace and would probably never have played for England again.

Thankfully, this was not the case and Dawson, who during his rise to international fame also managed to qualify as a teacher, was to become a cornerstone of the England team. It is clear that en route, he has had many influences and, without giving anything away, the book is littered with references to the many positive influences and some of the occasionally - let's say obstructive - figures he has encountered.

One final aspect from which the book benefits is its inclusion not only of the dressing room drama, including a perplexed Jonny Wilkinson, during the World Cup, but also the reaction back home to England's victory, allowing most of us to continue to bask in the warm rugby memories of autumn 2003.



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