Gwyn Nicholls (1874-1939) is the starting - and perhaps the end - point of any debate about great rugby centres. Playing at a time when rugby developed into the game known today, Nicholls was universally recognised as the outstanding back of his time and a great thinker about the game, both technically and tactically. At once, he was the game’s first superstar and its W.G. Grace. He played for Cardiff, Wales and the British Isles team which toured Australia in 1899 and led Wales to victory against the 1905 All Blacks and Cardiff to victory over the 1906 Springboks.
So many elements of Gwyn Nicholls’ story echo today: media idolisation; idiosyncratic actions by Rugby Unions; balancing off-field business and rugby commitments; the tortuous relationship between professionalism and amateurism; ’going north’ (as was the case with his brother Sid); outstanding touring sides from the southern hemisphere. David Parry-Jones’ research uncovers a brilliant player, a sportsman, and a man of his times. Was he the best? This illuminating book shows how high his reputation was and reopened the debate in the year of the Rugby World Cup.
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