Rugby is not a game for those who think that centres are what you find in a box of Black Magic or who confuse Jonah Lomu with Joanna Lumley. At the same time, it is not a game for the bright: what kind of tortured mind would invent an oval ball? Of course, it helps if you know the rules and don't have any fear. In this respect you are in the same boat as most referees, particularly if you have a problem with your eyesight. Odd-Shaped Balls is a collection of stories that evoke the fun and frolics of all players great and small. It snoops inside sweaty, smelly dressing-rooms, reveals the passions of coaches and fans - without whom rugby would cease to exist - and delves deep into the sport's archives to recall its heroes, villains and victims, all of whom are part of the daily currency. The book is no less than a who's who of rugby, with both old and young getting the opportunity to have their say. Odd-Shaped Balls captures the humour, the agony and the ecstasy of one of the world's most popular sports. Lining out is a cast of thousands of mischief-makers, miscreants and mad-hatters: from Max Boyce to Keith Wood; from Sean Fitzpatrick to Austin Healy; Bill Beaumont and his streaker to Gavin Hastings; from Gareth Edwards to David Campese; and from the man in the scrum to the man at the bar. All exponents of surrealism, comic genius and savage wit, they offer a quirky insight into the sporting psyche as well as providing some riotous good laughs. With hundreds of funny stories, Odd-Shaped Balls is a light-hearted romp through decades of rugby tomfoolery that is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of all sports fans.
John Scally is a lecturer at Trinity College in Dublin. A former journalist and broadcaster, he is the author of many books on sport, including Legends of Irish Rugby and Them and Us.