I looked on amazon.com for Rugby Studs, but couldnít find it. So I guess it hasnít exactly shaken the rugby world as promised. - Wes
Sexy novel shakes rugby
Novel to lift lid on steamy side of overseas tours
Sunday March 18, 2001
It will do for rugby what Jilly Cooper's Riders did for showjumping. A steamy new book is set to reveal the sexual exploits and off-field antics of Britain's top rugby players. The sport is bracing itself for disclosures that show events get as mucky off the pitch as on it.
Rugby Studs is an exposť of the groupies, heavy drinking, orgies and infidelity on overseas tours for which the game is infamous. Although fiction, it is said to be based on real-life scandal involving top stars. Wives and girlfriends are unlikely to be amused.
The game's rulers are worried because the author, Alison Kervin, is a well-connected insider who knows many of its secrets. The respected rugby editor of the Times, Kervin is friendly with many leading players and a veteran of overseas tours. She is also a former employee of England's Rugby Football Union, and has seen women throw themselves at players.
'Rugby players are fit young men who are attractive to women and have a huge female following,' says Kervin. 'When I worked for the RFU, the letters that arrived for them were unbelievable. Women would send their underwear to a particular player or write them letters saying things like, "My husband's out between two and seven, why don't you come and see me?". One even sent her door-key.'
She describes how, at post-match dinners and balls, rugby groupies would rush up to players. 'They'd say things like, "I've fancied you for ages," or, "I think you're wonderful," even if the player's wife or girlfriend was there.'
Thirty-three-year-old Kervin says Rugby Studs reflects the fact that some players do occasionally succumb to such temptations.
Much of her blockbuster is set in South Africa during the British Lions tour in 1997, which she attended. It charts the efforts of Isabel Jenkins, a glamorous reporter with a muck-raking Sunday tabloid, to reveal how the team's best-known player is cheating on his girlfriend with a leading South African actress.
'He is the team's main sex symbol and a golden boy - a handsome, athletic, young David Beckham lookalike - and she has been seen leaving the team's hotel. They are having an affair and her newspaper has got wind of it,' says Kervin.
She accepts many readers will assume the scenario was inspired by the widely rumoured affair between England captain Will Carling and the Princess of Wales, but recommends that no one should jump to such conclusions. Carling insisted he and the Princess were simply close friends - and he was not picked for the 1997 Lions tour.
The tour led to rugby's biggest off-field scandal. In May 1999, Lawrence Dallaglio told the News of the World how he and two Lions team-mates had taken ecstasy at a post-match party at a Johannesburg hotel, and described how he and other players had hired prostitutes in Amsterdam. Dallaglio later retracted the remarks, and the RFU cleared him of wrongdoing.
Drugs form part of the backdrop in Rugby Studs. But sex, including orgies, is the main vice on show. One Lions player gladly accepts some of the offers of intimate female company, but at least he is single. 'Rugby has a huge reputation for sex, and people think that players all go off and misbehave all the time,' says Kervin. 'That's not actually the case, as they're also training a lot.'
The author says that, while players are meant to have become less hedonistic since the game turned professional in 1995, their opportunities for illicit liaisons have increased. 'Rugby women traditionally wore Barbour jackets, rugby shirts and sensible trousers. But a new breed of female fan has emerged who sees it as glamorous, sexy and alluring, and hangs around waiting to meet the players, especially the famous ones,' says Kervin.
'If you go to any club on a Saturday afternoon, like Harlequins, you can see these women. They wear skimpy clothes and are dressed up as if they're going out on a Friday night.'
Kervin has more sympathy for the wives and girlfriends left behind while their men go on tour. 'Their insecurities are one example of the damage fame can do, which is one of the book's more serious themes.'
She will be in Australia for the Times for the forthcoming Lions tour, but will also be keeping her eyes open for material she can work into Rugby Studs, which will be published in the summer.
Mike Burton, a veteran of England overseas tours in the Seventies, says: 'Club teams touring places like Jersey and Guernsey are much more boisterous than serious tours by England or the Lions. Alison has a very vivid imagination, and that may reflect the way she spent her girlhood! Regrettably, I missed out on most of the stuff she's written about.'