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Rugby Football During the Nineteenth Century: A Collection of Contemporary Essays about the Game by Bertram Fletcher Robinson (Anglais) Broché – 16 février 2010


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Rugby Football was the first volume in the successful nine-part series on Sports and Pastimes that was written for the Isthmian Library between 1896 and 1901. It was also one of the first rugby books to be written after members of the Rugby Football Union became bitterly divided over a proposal to pay match expenses to players. During 1896, the R.F.U. split and two new rugby codes were born; the strictly amateur code of Rugby Union and the more professionally inclined code of Rugby League. Bertram Fletcher Robinson was a supporter of amateurism in sport and he felt that the time was ripe to chart the birth of Rugby Union as a distinct branch of Rugby Football. During the 1890s, The Times newspaper described Fletcher Robinson as a household name within rugby circles . Robinson played as a Forward alongside many international players for both the Cambridge University Rugby Football Club 1st XV and the Combined Oxford & Cambridge University Rugby Football Club XV. According to his obituary in the Daily Express newspaper, he would have been capped for England but for an accident. Hence he was well qualified to write an anecdotal account of the origin of Rugby Union.Rugby Football details the laws, training techniques and tactics that were specific to Rugby Union during its nascent period. It also reviews the development of Rugby Union in British educational institutions and as a global international sport. Rugby Football includes contributions from several other historical rugby figures: Frank Mitchell (Cambridge University & England), Richard Henry Burdon Cattell (Oxford University, Blackheath, Moseley, Barbarians, Midland Counties & England), Charles James Nicol Fleming (Oxford University & Scotland), Gregor MacGregor (Cambridge University, Barbarians & Scotland) and Henry Barrington Tristram (Oxford University & England).



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Contemporary views on an emerging sport 1 avril 2010
Par Ripple - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
The mid-nineteenth century represented the sporting equivalent of the `big bang' in terms of winter sports in Great Britain, giving rise to the development of what today we call rugby union, soccer and rugby league, all from the same origin. It was also the origins of American Football. Perhaps due to its popularity amongst the public schools of the day, rugby union many years claimed the moral high ground, advocating amateurism and an emphasis on playing the game rather than providing a public spectacle. In 1896 Bertrand Fletcher Robinson, together with contributions from a few leading players of the day, wrote Rugby Football which was the first volume in a successful nine-part series on Sports and Pastimes that was written for the Isthmian Library. This edition is effectively a facsimile of that edition, with the addition of an introduction, penned by Patrick Casey and Hugh Cooke and compiled by Paul Spring.

Paul Spring notes that first editions of the Isthmian Library book are both rare and expensive and so he has taken it upon himself to provide a more accessible version, and this is clearly a good thing.

The emergence of rugby union was chaotic and often highly amusing, but I did not feel that this was particularly evident in the introduction which, while comprehensive, was on the dry side. I'm always a bit suspicious when an author uses the word "interestingly" with a high level of frequency. It's usually better to let the reader be the judge of that.

There's absolutely no doubt that Fletcher Robinson was a fascinating individual. A keen rugby player in his youth, he was also a distinguished editor and writer and, for example worked with both Arthur Conan Doyle (another keen rugby player) and PG Woodhouse - although this is not the subject of this book. However, what I found remarkable was the `modern' tone of his writing. Much of the style would fit very well into the newspapers of today, combining authority with frequent wit. He is ardently in favour of amateurism and provides frequent contrasts with the development of American Football - of which he is critical of the overt professionalism and commercialism. However, it is interesting to read a contemporary view of the time when these two sports were diverging. Fletcher Robinson frequently quotes an American observer on the British game.

Of course, it's more amusing to pick out the more dated issues. Today's players are unlikely to be bothered by the dangers of poisonous dies in their rugby jerseys seeping into their blood, and the chapter on `Hints on Training' provides some priceless advice, noting that "an energetic school captain should see that none of his 'men' indulge inordinate desires for jam-puffs" and on the subject of tobacco Fletcher Robinson is adamant that "the pipe, then, must remain a matter for the individual conscience".

Scottish readers too will rejoice in the claimed superiority of "the Scotch schools" in playing the game and Fletcher Robinson proves an accurate judge to note that the French, Australian and New Zealanders may one day master the game enough to challenge the home nations! He also relates the story of a player playing against an early New Zealand touring team getting bitten in the leg - so some things haven't changed that much!

For some reason, he is also slightly obsessed with American footballers' apparent tendency to have long hair.

Finally, as a facsimile production, the size of the original book was much smaller and so in a modern sized book there is a lot of blank paper. I'm sure there is a good (probably technical) reason for this, but in today's environmentally aware world, I wonder why the book couldn't have been of the original size to save on paper.

So, although specialist in nature, it is a useful and insightful addition to books on the history and development of the game (and to a lesser extent the early development of American Football) which is to be welcomed.
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