Rugby Academy

Celebrate the Buzz of the Rugby World Cup with the new compilation of all THREE action-packed, globe-trotting Rugby Academy adventures

Borderlands First XV have their sights set on becoming the best school rugby team in the world. But many are also worried about their parents deployed overseas in the armed forces. New pupil Woody is a footballer and must decide if he’s prepared to give rugby his all. Rory feels like he’s losing his focus, distracted by thoughts of his parents in danger. Meanwhile, Owen finds himself at the centre when conflict breaks out within the team. With so many hurdles to face along the way, what are the chances of them making it to the end of the rigorous schools’ tournament?

NEW Compilation edition available from your local librarybookshops and Amazon

Read First Chapters here:
Book 1 Combat Zone
Book 2  Surface to Air
Book 3 Deadlocked 

Written for 8+ children
Illustrated by David Shephard
Published by Barrington Stoke 

Signed and dedicated copies of all my books are available personalised to order from my local independent children’s bookshop “The Thoughtful Spot”here.

Rating: 5/5“Pacey but thought provoking … 5 stars”  Rugby World Magazine

“All the drama of the sport steams up from the page.  Any rugby enthusiast is going to love this book”  The BookBag

“a book of depth as well as excitement”   Julia Eccleshare

Awards & selections

cov2016 Rugby Academy : Book 1 Combat Zone  is a finalist for the Coventry Inspiration Book Award !



2016 Rugby Academy : Book 1 Combat Zone  is on the Scottish First Minister’s Reading Challenge 




My Top ten tips letter for rugby families to encourage reading is here

“a book of depth as well as excitement” Julia Eccleshare


2019 Rugby & Literacy Pack

A bumper pack of literacy activities and display ideas to encourage reading and writing during the 2019 Men’s Rugby World Cup and the 2019-2020 season.

Download here


Download a poster by clicking on the images below:


Combat Zone      Surface to air     Dead Locked

rugby poster image There are books imagei was a reader imageace short sport reads image

These Posters in both English and Welsh (featuring George North) to encourage reading through rugby, produced with the generous help of Conwy Libraries and Barrington Stoke:

english poster

welsh new


rugby certificateCertificate

Tell me when you’ve read all three Rugby Academy books and I’ll send you a signed certificate (via your school if you prefer) by emailing me direct here.


Read a chapter by clicking on the book cover below:

 Combat Zone Surface to air Dead Locked

Find out more about the books by clicking on the covers below:

Combat Zone Surface to air Dead Locked

Try these quizzes by clicking on the images below:

combat zone quiz  surface to air reading quiz  Deadlocked reading quiz


You can play Top Trumps with the full set of player cards here.
And look out for my special author cards!

player cardstop trumpstom player card


Forces Families

reading force flyerMy latest series, Rugby Academy, was inspired by children of serving RAF personnel, and I used their input to get life as a Service child right.  In the first book of this series, Combat Zone, football-mad Woody finds himself stuck in a rugby-obsessed British boarding school, as his dad is being deployed overseas.

I am currently working with Reading Force who promote sharing and talking about books with children in British Armed Service  families.  You can find out more about that here.  I  launched Reading Force at Le Cateau School in North Yorkshire, and managed to get the Head Teacher playing football in the school hall.  Find out about the Reading Force Roadshow here.

I am proud to be the RAF Museum children’s author in residence

Well done Jack Leclercq!  

Jack LeclercqJack is 8 years old and about to go into grade 3 at Western Province Preparatory School in Cape Town, South Africa.  He has read all the Rugby Academy books so we were delighted to send him a special certificate.

5 star review

Rugby World magazine’s made Rugby Academy 1 Combat Zone their top rugby read for children in Christmas 2014 and gave it a 5 star review in January 2015.

Rating: 5/5“pacey, but also thought-provoking … This is just the thing to whet the appetites of rugby-mad primary school children at the start of the World Cup year.” Rugby World

“I love the first chapter of Rugby Academy Combat Zone. ” Cameron

Rating: 5/5  “A realistic story for the tween boy which looks at changing from football to rugby and what it’s like to have a parent fighting in a war zone.”    Book Bag

“Tom Palmer leads you through a tale of war, sport and friendship” The Guardian

tom and ruckley

“Tom Palmer brings the boys off the page vividly and I swear that I could hear the crowd screaming in the final. Any rugby enthusiast is going to love this book, but if, like me you know next to nothing about the game, then it’s still a darn good story and there’s the added bonus of collectable rugby cards attached to the covers. It’s thought provoking too, on the subject of sportsmanship and competitiveness as well as learning to work with people who might not immediately appeal to you. ” Bookbag

“A really enjoyable read, with excellent characters and an authentic background; perfect to encourage reluctant readers and to show them just how great good stories are.”  Parents in Touch

“a perfect for fit for young rugby fans” Mumsnet

“The theme of this book is not only about the sport of rugby but also reading reluctance, which is clever as this book is dyslexia friendly.  Well-written and exciting.” Carousel 

“Tom Palmer didn’t know a great deal about either rugby or the RAF before he started writing this book… but he did extensive research into the sport and into what it’s like to be in an RAF family. The result is impressive. It’s realistic: men fighting in a combat zone are in danger and it doesn’t always work out as you might hope, but this point is dealt with sensitively. I was glad that Palmer didn’t dodge the issue…Tom, your books gave a real flavour of the game for dyslexia sufferers using kids who had real problems of their own to contend with.  I really did think that Owen not being a great reader was a stroke of genius: that’s something that kids with dyslexia will be able to relate to.  Superb.” BookBag

deadlocked review

“Tom Palmer is brilliant at capturing the passion of sport and the drama it creates. Woody is an outstanding young footballer so when his dad, a pilot who is often away on active service, sends him off to a new school where rugby is worshipped, he is sure he is going to hate it. But things turn out very different! Far from hating it, Woody’s natural sporting talent soon leads him to enjoy the new sport – and to shine at it! How Woody adapts to the new game and the new sport is deftly interwoven with a sensitive portrait of the special pressures felt by the children of those in the armed services making it a book of depth as well as excitement.” Julia Eccleshare Love Reading for Kids

“That new Rugby Academy book looks brilliant! I will definitely be reading the whole series.  I’ve already read the first chapter of your new book, it’s amazing and I will tell my mum, in October we will have to buy it! ” Sam

“Just read the first chapter of Rugby Academy! Great , the students are going to love it!” Teacher, Kingsway Park High School 

The Record, Speld NZReview by teacher Wendy Klyen and Nathan Jordan (11) in SPELD NZ’s The Record

“I thought it was excellent and it has been a hit with the kids. I love they way you deliver a great story within the Barrington Stoke formula – which works so incredibly well for so many kids. Your Football Academy is also really popular with our younger boys!… Readers have been eagerly awaiting the final installment in this very engaging series for young rugby fans, an added bonus the last book is set in New Zealand!”  Alison Hewett, Kristin School

Read New Zealand Librarian Ali Hewitt’s full review in her blog 100 great books before lunch here.  

Buy Books

Signed and dedicated copies of all my books are available personalised to order from my local independent children’s bookshop “The Thoughtful Spot”here.

1 Combat Zone  –  Amazon
2 Surface to Air –  Amazon
NEW Rugby Academy compilation of all 3 books – AMAZON

rugby boys

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