There is Rugby Union: the fast, compelling, TV-friendly combat sport in which sponsored gladiators are sold on their ability to crash into each other at top speed, and sometimes even to avoid each other and score. And then there's rugger.
Rugger was once the serious version of rugby, more than a mere game, a fierce contact-sport developed in Victorian public schools to forge manly and unshakeable character. For a hundred years boys played rugger and made themselves into men. They also drank too much beer and took their trousers down in public.
Richard Beard sets out to examine this contradiction by revisiting his seven former rugby clubs in four different countries. He meets Booker prize-winning authors and former England hookers, explores rugby's rivalry with soccer, its surprising attraction for nonconformists, and its unlikely role in organised crime. All while trying to get himself a game.
This is Beard's quest into his rugby-playing past, where he's lived the sport in many of its varied forms. By the end of his wayward journey, he almost qualifies to judge whether rugger has achieved what the Victorians always intended, and made him a better man.