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Rugby has always been a sport with as much drama off the field as on it. For every thrilling last-minute Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal to win the world cup or Jonah Lomu rampage down the touchline for a try, there has been a split, a feud or a controversy.
The Oval World is the first full-length history of rugby on a world scale – from its origins in the village-based football games of medieval times up to the globalised sport of the twenty-first century,now played in well over 100 countries. It tells the story of how a game played in an obscure English public school became the winter sport of the British Empire, spread to France, Argentina, Japan and the rest of the world and commanded a global television audience of over four billion for the last world cup final. And how American football – and other games such as Australian, Canadian and Gaelic football – emerged from rugby and highlight just how much the modern gridiron game owes to its English cousin.
Featuring the great moments in the game's history and its great names – such as Jonah Lomu, David Duckham, Serge Blanco, Billy Boston and David Campese alongside Rupert Brooke, King George V, Boris Karloff, Charles de Gaulle and Nelson Mandela – The Oval World investigates just what it is about rugby that enables it to survive and thrive in countries with very different traditions and cultures. This is the the definitive world history of a truly global rugby.