Win a signed copy of Martin Bayfield’s book

A Very Tall Story is the new autobiography by Martin Bayfield, the 6ft 10in former England and Lions lock. Written in collaboration with Daily Telegraph rugby correspondent Gavin Mairs, the book tells the story of Bayfield’s amateur-to-pro career and his subsequent plunge into the world of TV and blockbusting movies.

A Very Tall Story is published by Simon & Schuster, RRP £20. At the foot of this article, you’ll have the chance to win one of three signed copies in a competition.

First, here’s an extract from the book about England’s 1995 World Cup campaign in South Africa, when Bayfield was a regular in the pack. England had qualified for a quarter-final against Australia and were looking for an advantage in their preparations for the match…

Win a signed copy of Martin Bayfield's book

Fall guy: Bayfield takes a tumble in a lineout during the Cape Town quarter-final (AFP/Getty Images)

Someone came up with a masterplan to dress up our sports psychologist, Austin Swain, as a backpacker and sneak him into the Wallabies’ training session, writes Martin Bayfield. His instruction was to get us any information that he could. The smallest nugget would have done but instead he came back with a treasure chest overflowing with stolen intellectual property. We listened with laughter as he recounted his James Bond-style mission.

When he rocked up at the stadium, the groundsman thought he was a tourist. When the Australia players and coaches arrived, they thought he was a friend of the groundsman. Swain could not believe his luck and kept the deception going brilliantly. He ended up watching the entire Wallabies’ training session while drinking beers out of their cool box. He eventually slipped away with every single move the Australians used.

Bayfield wins a lineout, RWC 1995 quarter-final

Bayfs wins the ball, lifted by Jason Leonard (Getty)

Swain had been a decent rugby player and was also a coach, so he knew what he was looking for. He wasn’t able to pick up their calls but memorised everything else.

I remember (coach) Jack Rowell asking him to stand in front of us all and tell us everything he could remember. Almost an hour later, we were sitting there with our jaws on the floor. “Wow, you really did watch the whole training session!”

His reward? A new nickname. From then on, he was known as ‘Neidermeyer’, as in the sneaky little s**t from Animal House.

Our reward for Niedermeyer’s subterfuge was to be able to anticipate every Australian move, culminating in a 25-22 victory in Cape Town. It avenged our defeat by the Wallabies four years earlier in the World Cup final.

The victory didn’t pass without a moment of humiliation for me, however. Early in the game, with adrenaline pumping, I lined up David Campese, the legendary Wallaby wing, and brought him to the ground. It was one of the greatest moments of my career. Sadly, Campo didn’t see it that way. “Aw mate, that is just embarrassing,” he berated himself, incredulous that he had allowed himself to be tackled by a lump of a second-row like me.

My main role that day was to neutralise the threat of the great John Eales at the lineout. Eales was by far the best lineout operator in the world and in the pre-match lineout meeting we devised our masterplan.

“Bayfs, we are basically going to use you as a decoy and throw the ball somewhere else,” I was told. The boys knew how to make me feel important. But it actually worked. Eales marked me, freeing up our other jumpers all afternoon.

Martin Bayfield book cover

Our forward power told in the end – just. In the final minute, Mooro (Brian Moore) finally threw the ball to me at a lineout and thankfully I caught it and trundled forward. Dewi (Morris) threw his usual pass to Rob (Andrew) – it must have bounced three times before he caught it – and Rob dissected the posts with the winning drop-goal.

England v Australia scoreboard

Scores on the board: despite their spying, England only won it by three points in the last minute! (Getty)

There was another bizarre twist to the tale of our victory. In a conversation years later with Eales, it turned out that we had been using exactly the same lineout codes during the match. I remember thinking, when they made their call, that the ball was thrown to where I expected, and it turns out they were thinking the same about us.

Even more remarkably, we had changed our codes at half-time, and it turns out they had done the same, and made the exact same changes as we had!


A Very Tall Story by Martin Bayfield is published by Simon & Schuster, RRP £20

We also have three signed copies to give away, courtesy of Simon & Schuster. For a chance to win a signed copy of Martin Bayfield’s book, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Tuesday 29 November.

Win a signed copy of Martin Bayfield's book

An England player stops to tie his shoelace during the 1991 World Cup. But who is he? (Getty Images)