The East Terrace - For the rugby football enthusiast

Richard Hill: The Autobiography

Richard Hill
Richard Hill: The Autobiography
Published by Orion Books

Written by Richard Hill and Tony Lawrence

In the 1993-94 season, when Richard Hill was in the early stages of his long and distinguished one-club career, Saracens were attracting an average of just 1000 supporters to their home matches.

Compared to the crowd numbers at Saracens today Ė as well as the accompanying slick marketing, merchandise and razzmatazz at the club Ė itís an amazing transformation in a relatively short space of time.

That statistic alone gives an indication of just how much the landscape of rugby union has changed during the duration of the world cup winnerís career.

Hill himself is easily one of the most respected players of the modern era. Furthermore, his consistent world class performances, and lack of ego, has made him perhaps more loved outside of Englandís borders than any other red rose player in living memory.

Sadly, for a player with such a long and distinguished career the book disappoints a little.

Itís certainly refreshing to read a biography so lacking in ego and boastful remarks, but Hill often seems far too much of a gentleman for his own good.

Many readers will be surprised to find, for example, that Hill not only bears no malice to Australian Nathan Grey and the flying elbow which ended Hillís 2001 Lions tour (and some say with it the Lionsí chances of victory in the series), he actually believes it was an accident.

ĎHe ran across me and caught me as he went through. Most of our guys seemed to think it was malicious and everything I have read since takes the same line, but I am not so sureÖAs far as Iím concerned, the matter was investigated and Nathan was cleared, so that was that.í

Itís a far cry from the way many biographies are sold these days: think of the way the Irish captain stoked the fires surrounding his controversial injury in the first test against New Zealand when promoting his book.

The major problem with Hills book, however, isnít lack of hyberbole, itís the decision to use Hillís recent knee problems as a narrative theme throughout the book.

Each chapter opens with Hill writing about the career threatening injury which has put him out of the game for over a year (an injury he has only just bounced back from).

Whilst it is obviously of great importance to Hill and needs to be addressed in the book, it does dominate the tome a little more than it should.

With each chapter having a least three or four pages talking about his knee, it adds up to at least sixty pages just dealing with his troublesome limb. As a writing technique it was obviously being used as a narrative thread for the whole book. But it does get a little repetitive after a while. And with Hillís lengthy career there were surely other events and anecdotes that could have filled the space.

Itís another example of a badly timed autobiography and is a prime example of the problems caused by the modern trend of publishing autobiographies during a playersí career. Itís a pity they didnít wait a year or too longer before bringing it out.

It is a shame because there are probably fewer well-liked and well-respected figures in the modern game than Richard Hill. It isnít awful by any means, but for people who read a lot of rugby books it may lack a little excitement.