Win the book Hard Men of Rugby

Hard Men of Rugby, written by Luke Upton, records the exploits of 20 of the toughest men that rugby has seen. You can read a review of the book here.

At the foot of this article, you have the opportunity to win one of six copies in a competition. First, here’s a brief extract from the book about one of the players featured – former New Zealand captain Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford.

The extract concerns the second Test between France and the All Blacks in 1986, a match so brutal that it has been dubbed the ‘Battle of Nantes’. New Zealand had won the first Test 19-7 in Toulouse and, a week later, now faced a fierce backlash…

Win the book Hard Men of Rugby France v NZ first Test 1986

First blood: France’s Eric Bonneval is tackled during New Zealand’s 19-7 win in Toulouse (Corbis/Getty)

The home team were ferocious in their ambition to avenge the previous week’s defeat, writes author Luke Upton. Early on, Shelford took a kick to the face and had four teeth knocked out. He played on.

Then, on 20 minutes, he was holding on to the ball at the bottom of a ruck when a stray (or intentional?) les Bleus stud connected with his groin, where it tore his scrotum, leaving one testicle hanging out.

“It bloody well hurt,” said Shelford, unsurprisingly. “I chucked some of the proverbial Jesus water down my shorts to make it feel better. That didn’t do a lot so we just played on.” And play on he did.

It was only when, at another ruck a few minutes later, a Frenchman came flying in from the side and knocked Shelford unconscious that he had to be helped gingerly from the pitch.

Win the book Hard Men of Rugby

Great eight: Shelford in action for the NZ Maoris against the French Barbarians in 1988 (Getty Images)

But this was not the end of the game for Shelford. As the Kiwi physio examined him, he noticed the scrotum injury and decided to stitch it up. On the touchline.

To add to this moment of black humour, the French TV producers decided to turn the cameras onto this scene. Viewers were treated to footage of some particularly delicate stitching of his most sensitive area, beamed straight into their living rooms.

The already surprised French must have been gobsmacked when, his patch-up complete, Shelford trotted back onto the pitch to recommence playing. It was only deep into the second half that a further blow to the head left him unable to complete the match.

“I was knocked out cold, lost four teeth and had a few [actually 18] stitches down below,” recalled Shelford, speaking years later to the BBC. “It’s a game I still can’t remember – I have no memory of it whatsoever. I had to watch a video to remember what the game was actually like. I don’t even remember what the score was – I don’t really want to either.”

For the record, New Zealand lost 16-3. It was the only time Shelford was on the losing side during his distinguished international career.

Win the book Hard men of Rugby France's winning team in Nantes

Series squared: the France team celebrate their 16-3 victory over the All Blacks in Nantes (Getty Images)

There is a footnote to this story, which is mentioned in the book, Rugby World writes.

In 2015 Jacques Mombet, the French team doctor in the 1980s, alleged that French players often took amphetamines in that era and that the team in Nantes that day had been given their “little pill” at the pre-match meal.

Prop Pascal Ondarts denies that allegation in the book Brothers in Arms. He says: “We beat them fair and square, motivated by the fear of failure and having been worked into a frenzy by Jacques (Fouroux, the coach). The only thing we would drink before a game was Guronsan (a legal, over-the-counter tablet for treating fatigue), water and, for some players, wine.”

No 8 Laurent Rodriguez has his say in the same book. “The All Blacks said we came out with evil in our eyes and so concluded we’d taken drugs,” he says. “That wasn’t the drugs – that was a combination of raw garlic, coffee and aspirin!”

Hard men of Rugby

Now enter our competition to win the book Hard Men of Rugby or buy it here

Hard men of Rugby is published by Y Lolfa, RRP £9.99. Buy it by clicking on the link below.

We also have six copies to give away. For a chance to win one, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Tuesday 23 February.

Win the book Hard Men of Rugby

A link to Buck: players from a Premiership club that Shelford once played for – but which club is it? (Getty)

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By submitting this entry you agree the terms and conditions below.

Terms and conditions

The competition closes at 10am on Tuesday 23 February 2021. Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of Hard Men of Rugby by Luke Upton. Normal Future Plc competition rules apply. Competition details form part of these terms and conditions. Entry is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland except employees (and their families) of Future Plc, its printers and agents, the suppliers of the prizes and any other companies associated with the competitions. The winners must be aged 18 or over. Proof of identity and age may be required. Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification. All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition. Entries made online using methods generated by a script, macro or the use of automated devices will be void. The prizes are as stated, are not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers’ terms and conditions. The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition. The winner agrees to the use of his or her name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests by Future Plc relating to any post-winning publicity. The winners will be chosen from all correct entries received by the closing date stated within the promotional material. Winners will be confirmed in writing. Reasonable efforts will be made to contact a winner. Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize. If they cannot be contacted, or are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random. Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered into over this decision. Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time. The Service Provider and contact details are specified within the promotional material.