Gerald Davies CBE is one of the greatest international rugby players ever. For Wales and the British Lions, he was both dazzling and deadly, a sidestepping right winger who did things with panache. And he has exhibited similar style and substance in all he has turned his hand to since retiring from rugby. He has been a distinguished columnist with The Times, putting to good use the degree in English Literature he obtained from Cambridge University. He is also respected as a rugby administrator the world over, whether it be as a member of the WRU's board of directors or as one of Wales's representatives on the IRB. He was manager of the British and Irish Lions in South Africa 2009 and Chairman of the Lions Committee which oversaw the successful tour of Australia in 2013.
This is the younger stable-mate of The Greatest Welsh XV Ever by Eddie Butler, published a year ago, also by Gwasg Gomer; and a very fine, sleek pair they are. Their format is identical: a generous size, high-quality recent colour photographs and a smaller number of black-and-white images that, these days, scream history and heritage, so fast has technology moved forward. In each case this wealth of visual material is balanced and contextualised by the perceptions of an outstanding, knowledgeable and highly articulate former player. Each has clearly been given permission to roam, to digress, to jog the elbow of fans of all ages, and stimulate readers to make their own choices. In this volume, our guide is that elusive, darting wing-three-quarter of the seventies' golden generation, Gerald Davies, later a distinguished rugby journalist and administrator. And what a contrast he is to the sharp, analytical, occasionally world-weary and often astringent Butler. Davies is a high romantic amongst rugby commentators, his prose purple, his tone often elegiac. Aficionados will now be able to argue contentedly not only about the choices and exclusions each writer makes, but in favour of Butlers restless, waspish wit and hard-bitten realism (he did play in the back row for Pontypool, after all)or Daviess uncompromising, unconditional admiration of the daring and the aesthetic. To Davies, rugby is a beautiful game, or it is nothing. It is little surprise that each chapter in this book is introduced by poetry, nor that prominent among the poets chosen is the exuberant Dylan Thomas. Davies reaches back into history in the early part of this book, the dawn of the twentieth century even, and also selects a try from the fifties. The other thirteen examples stretch from the legendary sixties' generation through to our currently highly successful team. This of course reflects the increasingly excellent quality of visual records now available. Davies takes the opportunity wherever possible, though, to digress and to compare, leaping generations and juxtaposing dynamics; for every try dissected in admiring detail, and every player highlighted, three or four others are considered. This is a lovely book, a delight to handle and to read; it is impossible to imagine anyone owning one of these volumes without lusting after the other. Meic Llewellyn It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council