James Joyce played underage rugby in his native Ireland, in Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co. Kildare. He describes what it was like to be out on the wing in schoolboy rugby in his book "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." Here are the relevant passages, with non-rugby text removed. A butchering of Joyce, perhaps, but there it is. (Personally, I donít care for Joyce.) - Wes
A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man
By James Joyce, 1916
The wide playgrounds were swarming with boys. All were shouting and the prefects urged them on with strong cries. The evening air was pale and chilly and after every charge and thud of the footballers the greasy leather orb flew like a heavy bird through the grey light. He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect, out of the reach of the rude feet, feigning to run now and then. He felt his body small and weak amid the throng of players and his eyes were weak and watery. Rody Kickham was not like that: he would be captain of the third line all the fellows said.
Rody Kickham was a decent fellow but Nasty Roche was a stink. Rody Kickham had greaves in his number and a hamper in the refectory. Nasty Roche had big hands. He called the Friday pudding dog-in-the-blanket. And one day he had asked:
-What is your name?
Stephen had answered:
Then Nasty Roche had said:
-What kind of a name is that?
And when Stephen had not been able to answer Nasty Roche had asked:
-What is your father?
Stephen had answered:
Then Nasty Roche had asked:
-Is he a magistrate?
He crept about from point to point on the fringe of his line, making little runs now and then. But his hands were bluish with cold. He kept his hands in the sidepockets of his belted grey suit. That was a belt round his pocket. And belt was also to give a fellow a belt. One day a fellow had said to Cantwell:
-I'd give you such a belt in a second.
Cantwell had answered:
-Go and fight your match. Give Cecil Thunder a belt. I'd like to see you. He'd give you a toe in the rump for yourself.
He was caught in the whirl of a scrimmage and, fearful of the flashing eyes and muddy boots, bent down to look through the legs. The fellows were struggling and groaning and their legs were rubbing and kicking and stamping. Then Jack Lawton's yellow boots dodged out the ball and all the other boots and legs ran after. He ran after them a little way and then stopped. It was useless to run on. Soon they would be going home for the holidays. After supper in the studyhall he would change the number pasted up inside his desk from seventyseven to seventysix.
A voice cried far out on the playground:
Then other voices cried from the lower and third lines:
-All in! All in!
The players closed around, flushed and muddy, and he went among them, glad to go in. Rody Kickham held the ball by its greasy lace. A fellow asked him to give it one last: but he walked on without even answering the fellow.