Winner of the 2010 Aberdare Prize for Sports History book of the year.

Voted joint winner of 'Best academic monograph on the history of rugby union' by delegates to the 2015 'World in Union: Rugby, Past Present & Future' conference.

'‘Peerless in its field … arguably the definitive account of the game’s English story. Iconoclastic, myth-busting and excellent on the schism that divided union from league.’ The New European

‘This is sports history at its best – bringing the skills and standards of serious history to areas too often dominated by myth and hearsay. With an eye for anecdote, Collins makes a serious contribution to our knowledge of English rugby and disposes of more than a few conventional assumptions about the modern game.’ Huw Richards, Financial Times.

‘This is a masterful analysis of the creation and culture of English rugby. In telling this compelling story Collins has lit up the past in a way that could provide answers to current problems, on and off the field, if English rugby is prepared to confront its own history.’ Spiro Zavos, Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Collins is simply an outstanding historian, and this study certainly fits as easily into the realm of social history as it does to sport. Collins previous books have shown a keen appreciation and application of social class, and this work is no exception. He develops a thesis that explicitly links the development of rugby union to that of the English middle classes, paying particular attention to middle class values and mores.’ Charles Little, Sport in Society.


The book was also nominated by Peter Wilby in the New Statesman as one of his three books of the year for 2009. The Independent on Sunday  also named it as one its sports books of the year, as did the Guardian.