Victor Ubogu - the face of the World Ubogu Championship

NOT MANY people know this but the inaugural World Ubogu Championships took place in a London pub last year. The competition involves saying the word ‘Ubogu’ – as in the former Bath and England prop – as many times as possible in a single breath, and if that sounds a simple concept you’d be surprised at how many tactics come into play.

The championships represented a final staging post for BBC bloggers Tom Fordyce and Ben Dirs, who on returning from France 2007 decided that rather than watch people trying to become world champions, they would seek to become world champions themselves. Thus they embark in these pages, in a clapped-out van so old that the previous model came with a starter handle, on a hilarious journey round the English shires (and Scandinavia), entering obscure events like wife-carrying, nettle-eating, stone-skimming and snail- racing – with mixed success.

The pair encounter more bizarre individuals than you can shake a stick at, including comedian Rory McGrath, a first-round opponent for Dirs in the shin-kicking shindig in Chipping Campden.

But the true comedy value of this book is Fordyce and Dirs themselves, their contrasting characters – one athletic and sporty, the other a beer-swilling smoker – providing the framework for a book of real quality. And some of the action is taken far more seriously than you might suppose. The World Sauna Championships, for example, attracted 160 entrants from 23 countries and you can bet on it on an Australian website. And don’t even think of going pea-shooting if your weapon doesn’t have laser sights.

RW RATING 5/5

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This article appeared in the September 2009 issue of Rugby World Magazine

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