Jeremy Taylor is a self-confessed rugby tragic – and so here he gets to have a fan’s wet-dream by splooshing out a bit of analysis, swirling in some opinion and backing it up with those pesky things called facts. In this slim volume, an update of Germinal Press’s original 2011 title of the same name, and part of their Last Word-series, Taylor is for the most part cool, calm and collected – even when breathlessly reminding readers that, emotionally, he has a lot riding on the upcoming tournament.
Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have read it if I didn’t already know Jeremy and know that his rugby-mad world is balanced, slightly, by obsessions with food and music, by keen skills as music-reviewer and food-writer; I not only know him I’ve enjoyed his critical work. He has a clear way with the word.
I’m also not not a rugby fan. I follow the game – enough. Which is to say I can tell which end of the ball you’re supposed to catch and hang on to…I recognise players and I never ask how many ‘goals’ a particular team won by.
It was hard not to get caught up in Word Cup Fever last time, and the focus on New Zealand to be the only side ever to win back to back titles (if they do) is an interesting pre-Cup nail-biter of sorts. Taylor’s book – an easy read, in the very best possible sense of that term – helps to break down the history of the Cup and past events, reminds of the heartbreak between 1987’s trounce-through-the-teams to victory and 2011’s final reclamation of that cup, despite New Zealand regularly being ranked as the world’s number one side.
There’s also an assessment of each side, key players and strategies, Taylor even picking the quarter-, semi- and eventual finalists. His pick? A Kiwi/Ireland final. Well, it’s not unlikely.
We get the lowdown on the referees, the venues and all of the hype that might stem from that – depending on how keen you are. And this is unashamedly and obviously a book for rugby fans, written by a rugby fan. That said, it’s for the fair-weather fans as much as it is for any obsessive. A handy “catch-up” for friends and family who brave-face it through the World Cup contests to please one or more of the co-inhabitants but end up revealing a more than sneaking admiration for our top team doing its best in New Zealand’s National Game.
I’m no rugby-head. But I like a good read (no matter the subject). And here I learned a few things, was also – charmingly – reminded of what I do actually know already about rugby and got to enjoy Tom Scott’s supporting (supportive?) cartoons as well as short think-pieces and fun distractions from Slow Boat captain and rugby fan Dennis O’Brien, Phoenix Foundation member Sam Scott and philosopher Prudence Stone.
So, for yourself or the rugby fan in your life, The Last Word: Rugby World Cup 2015 is crucial pre-event training.