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Beaumont's Up and Under by Mark Baldwin

Release date: 24th February, 2005
Publisher: Sanctuary Publishing

List Price: £9.99
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Book review

Beaumont's Up & Under
Trivial Delights from the World of Rugby Union
By Mark Baldwin with Bill Beaumont
Sanctuary Publishing

4sportsbooks.co.uk price: £6.99 (saving £3.00 on rrp)

With the Lions Tour party due to be announced a week on Monday, we can expect to see a growing number of analytical rugby publications online and on bookseller's shelves between now and the start of the tour in June.

Should the Lions actually emerge from New Zealand as the Test series victors, no doubt we will then see an even greater flood of biographies, diaries and behind-the-scenes tomes before the end of August. Whatever the outcome, we probably won't see a book which concerns itself with rugby miscellany, a market entertainingly cornered by Mark Baldwin and Lions Tour manager, Bill Beaumont.

This is the same likeable Beaumont who was captain of the Lions in 1980, the who became a regular on the BBC's Question of Sport, although as he comments in the book's foreword, having failed to answer the majority of his rugby questions on the programme correctly, this is the type of book that would have been perfect for his research.

Thankfully, Baldwin doesn't overdo the Lions theme, although in any book packed with rugby facts, it is inevitable that details of earlier tours abound. It follows that the reader adds opinion to bare facts. How annoying it must have been, for example, for the 1904 tour party to have whitewashed the Australians, scoring 50 points to 3 in three Test matches, only to travel to New Zealand and lose 9-3.

It's interesting too that prior to the first official Lions tour to South Africa in 1891, three years earlier, the first British Isles team to tour Australia and New Zealand was made up of players drawn from what was to become Rugby League's heartland: Batley, Runcorn, Swinton and Rochdale.

As the title proclaims, this is a book which concerns itself with rugby's trivia, hence we get a list of Bill McLaren's most famous sayings, although it's a surprise to see "And they'll be dancing in the streets of x tonight, I can tell you," only in fourth place. Similarly, the words of the 'haka' are printed in full (although without details on accompanying gestures).

One fancies that Baldwin ended up with loads of rugby material on the equivalent of the sub's bench, but he has still managed to pack plenty in. His book is perfect for pub quizzes or else handy enough to keep in the car's glove compartment in order that passengers can be kept on their toes while travelling to a game. It's good to see that the author introduces some 'basic rugby union rules', ideal for the game's new following, and only later provides details of what he refers to as "some obscure" rules.

Yet the two most enjoyable aspects of this book are: a) it's fun and b) you can read through pieces and think, 'well, I never knew that'.

Two instances come to mind. First are details of how the points system evolved, primarily to determine the outcome of matches; prior to this, all games were declared draws unless a 'goal' (a converted try) had been scored. Second are details of rugby's shortest international careers, a poignant set of facts (there are five, ranging from 1 minute 2 seconds to 2 minutes 49 seconds) displayed in stopwatch format. In short, Up and Under is fun and informative: what more could you ask from a sports book?


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