Seven Rugby Reading activities for 2015

This year I intend to do everything I can to promote literacy through rugby. 2015 is the year of the Rugby World Cup, hosted by England. It is also the year of what promises to be a very competitive RBS Six Nations tournament, as well as a thrilling domestic race for the title.

These are the things I will do:

ONE: A tour of fifty school visits. Half during the Six Nations in the spring. Half during the Rugby World Cup during the autumn. At each visit I will perform up to four Rugby Reading Games to 10,000 children.

TWO: A tour of the thirteen libraries next to the thirteen Rugby World Cup venues, from Newcastle to Brighton, via Leicester, Twickenham and Cardiff. Family events. This tour is being funded entirely by the RFU. It will take place in the second half of August.

THREE: A live story inspired daily by the events of the Rugby World Cup, available in cliffhanging five-minute read episodes for schools every morning from 8 a.m. during the tournament. Featuring adventure and excitement.  Determined by the events of the tournament. Also funded by the glorious RFU.

FOUR: A lively blog several times a week drawing attention to the events of the rugby year and to things I am reading about the game – including books, magazines, websites, newspapers, etc. Hopefully creating useful reading recommendations for adults and children. Already up and running. See #RugbyReaders.

FIVE: A toolkit of literacy ideas for rugby clubs, libraries, schools and homes, called Rugby Reading. Activities, games, challenges and more to get children reading about rugby for pleasure. Funded by the RFU. Available on their education website soon.

SIX: Fifteen classroom lesson plans – or drills – aimed at encouraging children to engage with a variety of reading materials and helping them make writing more enjoyable. Again, funded by the RFU. Again, available on their education website soon.

SEVEN: Three new books. (This is the bit I referred to at the top.) I have written a trilogy of children’s books about a school rugby team taking part in a fictional UK, European and World schools’ rugby tournament.

combat zone cover


Rugby Academy is aimed at children aged 7-11 and published by Barrington Stoke. The books are set in England, France and New Zealand. More information about them here. Book one – Combat Zone – is Rugby World Book of the Month for February. This has made me very happy.

That’s what is going to happen. I hope it sounds good. If you want to know more about any of the above, please email me via my website.

And please tell anyone who you know who cares about rugby, children or literacy about these plans. It’ll help a lot.

Rugby Readers # 5

I was away over the weekend. At the Cumbria Center Parcs [sic] with my family. As a result I willingly spent most of my time with my wife and daughter, rushing between wave machines, rapids and flumes. I didn’t have much time for following the weekend’s sport.

I have found that you have to plan your sports life well once you are in a family and not ‘an island’. Gone are the days of trips to Elland Road for nine hours on a Saturday.

‘Why does it take nine hours?’ my wife used to ask me. ‘It’s only fifty minutes to Leeds on the train.’

Why indeed?

However – back in family life – after five hours of intense sporting activity at Center Parcs, we had some carefully engineered relaxing time.

At three o’clock. On Saturday.


London Scottish v Yorkshire Carnegie.

Bolton Wanderers v Leeds United.

I don’t know if following ones teams on Twitter is more or less painful than in person or on the radio. It depends on the way the club tweet. And what the sport is.

Yorkshire Carnegie are very comprehensive on Twitter. You get a feel how the match is swinging. Key set pieces in dangerous positions give you an idea of an impending try. You know when there’s a penalty being lined up. @carnegierugby

Following Leeds Rhinos is the same.

Perhaps football is too fast for Twitter. But it always feels more painful when I am following Leeds United by tweet. It’s too sudden. With a flick of the finger it’s a GOAL. Disaster. Or joy. Usually disaster these days.

Anyway, Twitter is great for someone trying his best to be a decent father and husband, but also still pursuing his passions.

By 5 p.m. it was over. As was Aladdin. Time to eat.

When we got home the next day – with the help of the AA (alternator failure outside Penrith) – my wife and daughter had an early night and I stayed up to watch the Aviva Premiership highlights. The next morning I bought a copy of the Rugby Paper to read on my train trip to London.

And that was my rugby weekend.

Lots of reading and a little TV.

Next weekend is looking good. I am taking my daughter to Sale v Clermont Auvergne. To see some European action. But we’ll both be wearing Yorkshire Carnegie tops underneath our winter wear.

#RugbyReaders 4

The first Rugby Paper of 2015 is out today. I bought it, as I have done every week for the last year-and-a-half.

When I ask a group of kids in a rugby-loving school who has read The Rugby Paper it is unusual if any more than three out of 100 say they have. And that’s in a school that loves its rugby.

So… this is my blog about why I think kids who like rugby will enjoy The Rugby Paper – and why I think school libraries should stock it (if they have a budget).

News. Being a weekly newspaper, it is printed the day before publication and includes match reports from up to the evening before. Also, there is transfer information (I was going to say ‘speculation’, but what The Rugby Paper reports is usually accurate). This news is about all UK based clubs and the international teams, as well as international coverage, especially the big three southern hemisphere teams. And – very importantly – the women’s game.

Rugby World Cup. A lot of the news and opinion in the paper – that opinion coming from the likes of Jeff Probyn and Jeremy Guscott – is regarding the Rugby World Cup. There is a great feature on the tournament in this week’s issue. Fixtures, including all the warm-up games. And more.

Letters. These are great. A short column, but some fierce opinion. One of my favourite bits.

Match reports. In-depth match reports from all the top flight games involving teams from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland. Plus lower down the leagues. And a round up from France.

Four pages of league tables and results with team sheets, attendances, etc.

Fixtures. A very comprehensive fixture list for the week ahead.

Room 101. An entertaining interview about what annoys rugby players. A different player each week.

The Rugby Paper costs £1.50. You can get it in most newsagents, supermarkets and petrol stations. You can visit their website here.



#RugbyReaders 3


There are several books due to come out about the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Some are official. Some are not. This is a brief summary of titles, authors and publication dates. Plus any details I know about them.

World Rugby Yearbook by Karen Bond. The yearly amazing book of records and history. For the rugby obsessive. Lots of great original articles about this year’s World Cup. Already published: I got it for Christmas.

World Rugby Records 2015 by Chris Hawkes. A good tool to use in libraries this summer, with the library Summer Reading Challenge theme being World Records. 1st January.

Rugby Focus: RWC 2015 by Sean Callery. A guide to teams, the tournament and history. Aimed at children. Good for schools and libraries again. By a practicing teacher. 1st March.

Rugby World Cup Official Guide by Andrew Baldock. The tournament schedule, history and interviews with key players. 2nd July.

For children’s versions of the above book, published also in the summer (but few details available): Official Rugby World Cup Activity Book by Tasha Percy and Official Rugby World Cup Factfile by Clive Gifford. These will be good to give to children in the run up to the tournament.

And there is my own Rugby Academy series, featuring three books about a schools’ World Rugby tournament. Fictional.


#RugbyReaders 2

England Rugby

Finding the right reading material for children online is not always easy. Some websites are difficult to navigate – and there are, of course, other worries.

The RFU website – – is easy to get around, so I’ve pulled out a few highlights that I think are good for kids and families to enjoy together.

One of the best areas of the RFU website is about the U20s men’s team. Winners of the last two World Cups for young players, it is inspiring stuff for children and adults. Also, it has hot new news about this summer’s World Cup tournament in Italy. Follow the lads here.

For younger rugby fans there are the Ruckley pages. Ruckley is the England team mascot. Features include bespoke cartoons about Ruckley and the five core values of rugby union in England. Plus information on how to join the Junior Fan Club.

Back to playing, there is a regularly updated section about the Nat West Schools’ Cup. Find out how your school – or a school near you – is getting on.

There is an excellent general news page on the website. News often includes video interviews with players and coaching staff. And it covers all levels of the game, not just the England team. To get you in the mood for the Six Nations.

You can visit the World Rugby Museum – or at least some of it – virtually and perhaps inspire a trip to the real thing at Twickenham.

If you want your school (or your kids’ school) to engage more with rugby, there are some amazing educational resources on the website. Worth asking when you go back to the new term.

Also, there is an online England shop, in case anyone has any Christmas money left over. It includes World Cup merchandise if you want to brand up nice and early.

If you know of any good rugby websites, let me know and I’ll feature them in the coming weeks.


#RugbyReaders 1

rugby world

This is the first of 365 short blogs I am going to be doing about Rugby Union in 2015. One a day during a massive year for the sport. It’s going to be part diary / part tips on great rugby reading. Aimed at children and their adults.

I’ll kick off my reading tips with the new edition of Rugby World, which hit the shelves two days ago. It’s a great magazine with a lot of content for children. A family magazine, like rugby is a family game. There are interviews with key players from all the home nations, such as George Ford, pictured above. Tips on training drills, exercise and nutrition. Some great 2015 previews, with a marked focus on this year’s Rugby World Cup. And even a review of a children’s book…

If you want to get your kids reading rugby this is a great way to start a great year.

My last live rugby match of 2014 was to watch Yorkshire Carnegie play really well for 70 minutes against Worcester Warriors at Headingley. Yes, we lost. But Worcester looked like a Premiership outfit and Yorkshire have been improving a lot over the last few weeks.

My daughter and I have season tickets at Headingley this season and we’re loving it.  There are at least six more home games to look forward to in 2015 and we’re off to the England-Italy Six Nations game in February too. I can’t wait to see what she thinks of Twickenham. I went to the Ireland and Samoa games in 2014 – my first Twickenham matches – and loved both.

Happy New Year, anyway. It’s a few months away, but, as you will see inside the pages of Rugby World, the momentum towards the Rugby World Cup is already building.