Win Glenn Webbe’s terrific autobiography
Glenn Webbe may have played ten Tests for Wales but he enjoyed sevens more than 15s. So much so, in fact, that he went to the trouble of setting up his own sevens team. Called The Welshmen, he was able to call on fantastic talent such as David Bishop, Gary Pearce, Mark Ring, Paul Turner and Gerald Cordle for tournaments across the UK.
The former Bridgend and Wales wing talks about the team in his excellent autobiography – you can read a review of the book here.
Further down this article, you have the opportunity to try to win a copy of the book in our competition. By way of a taster, here’s a story about one of the most memorable Welshmen outings – a bank holiday weekend tournament in Newcastle upon Tyne…
Webbe writes: “Sir John Hall hadn’t long taken over Newcastle and there was beginning to be some decent money in the game. We had won the Caldy Sevens the day before, up on Merseyside, and had shared £5,000 in prize money. It was fantastic.
We had a brilliant squad packed with Bridgend players, including Owain Williams, Jason Forster, Andrew Williams, Matthew Lewis, Gareth Thomas, Dafydd James, Ian Greenslade and me. We had also attracted a sponsor, some landed English businessman who wanted us to do the rounds, visit a school and go to bed early – but that didn’t happen. We were there to play rugby and that’s it.
Newcastle were in one side of the draw and Northampton the other and, while it wasn’t fixed, it became obvious that the organisers wanted the two to meet in the final. We were just some also-rans but were putting 30 or 40 points on teams; we were playing fantastic stuff.
We reached the semi-finals but had lost some players. The tournament’s rules said that if you needed a replacement, and another team had already been eliminated, then you could use one of their players. I know this because we asked an official.
Cardiff were up there but had been knocked out, so we borrowed their winger Steve Ford, and beat Northampton to reach the final. Our sponsor was over the moon; we had put his company on the map and he took everything back he’d said about us being a bunch of wasters.
As we waited to take the field for the final, they announced on the Tannoy that there would be a 15-minute delay. Then this official came up to us and told us we had been disqualified.
They then put out another announcement saying that, due to the use of an ineligible player, The Welshmen were taking no further part in the tournament. They said it was because we had played Steve Ford when he wasn’t eligible.
I said, “You’re joking. We cleared it with you before picking him.”
“No you didn’t,” said the official. I couldn’t believe it and called him an absolute liar.
We were gutted, not so much because we couldn’t play in the final but because there was £10,000 in prize money on offer for the winners and £5,000 for the runners-up.
Now, we had out kit bags with us, as we had planned a quick getaway straight after the game, and I came up with an idea. “Follow me boys,” I said. “If we’re not going to be in the final, then there’s not going to be a final. We’re going to sit in protest on the halfway line.”
And we all walked out to the centre of the field and sat down with our kit bags. The official stared at us and then walked over and said, “I’m going to call the police.”
“Go on then,” I replied, and he stormed off. By then, the large crowd had noticed our protest and a slow handclap began to ring out around the ground. ‘Oh dear,’ I thought, ‘the crowd are turning on us now.’
But we had been playing such good rugby, the crowd were on our side. The next thing we knew, they started chanting, “Let them play! Let them play!”
Then all the la-di-das in the hospitality marquees came running onto the field, with their G&Ts in hand, and sat down forming a huge circle around us in support.
Eventually the organisers came over and said, “Okay, there’s been a mistake but you have to abide by the decision.”
“But there’s at least £5,000 at stake here,” I said. So they had a little conflab and came back and said, “If we give you the £5,000, will you go home?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Okay, will you come off now?”
“I’ve got a better idea,” I said. “Why don’t you go and get the money first?”
They went to get the money and counted it out, there and then on the field, and we left with a lap of honour with the crowd cheering.
The only downside was that Northampton, who we had dusted in the semi-final, beat Newcastle in that final. So we could have doubled our money.
Needless to say, we weren’t invited back the following year but we won the Henley Sevens instead and that also had a £10,000 prize.”
Glenn Webbe: The Gloves Are Off is published by Y Lolfa, RRP £9.99, and you can buy it here.
We have six copies to give away in a competition. For a chance to win one, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Tuesday 14 April.
Terms and conditions
Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of Glenn Webbe’s autobiography, ’The Gloves Are Off’.
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