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A fresh viewpoint on rugby from a neglected East Terrace

The East Terrace is back. But for those that have come to revisit an old haunt, the view is going to be a bit different. When the original website was launched back in 2004, there was very little irreverent rugby writing on the interweb. What sprinkle of rugby humour that did litter the net tended to be of the tired ‘hookers’ and ‘odd shaped balls’ type. 

Gwyn Nicholls

Gwyn Nicholls – Prince of Centres (by Raluca Moldovan).

The East Terrace was a humble attempt to bring an Onion style take to a sport underserved by satire. The response was overwhelming. A modest (but very supportive and appreciative) audience was quickly found for pieces that fluctuated between the surreal and the cutting, the nostalgic and the cynical. 

Within a short time, my writing on The East Terrace brought me unexpected ‘real’ rugby writing gigs for publications in Ireland, Wales and England. Terrace content was also syndicated in places such as ESPN, the Irish Independent and Rugby Times.

Among the highlights of the early years was the time the WRU actually asked (who were running a monthly article from The East Terrace) to clarify that, no, the new yellow change shirts Wales were wearing were not made with the dye from murdered canaries. Or the occasion an expat newspaper in Tenerife expressed concern to its readers after reading our piece claiming Bill Beaumont was coming out of retirement after watching Sylvester Stallone’s 2006 film Rocky Balboa. 

Another gem, again, involved the WRU. This time they were concerned our piece on George North being carried into a press conference on a throne by a dozen virgins would be taken seriously. The player himself also took to the then fledgling social media platform Twitter to clarify it was a spoof.

A different focus

But in recent years other writing gigs got in the way of populating The East Terrace with new pieces. At the same time, a new rugby online community had evolved that offered their own superb alternate takes on the sport. The need for the East Terrace’s fictional takes on the real world seemed less essential than ever. 

Occasional non satirical posts were posted via a new ‘South Terrace’ feature, but commitment to other projects (as well as the process of moving countries and starting a family) meant the articles were as frequent as a Leinster fan admitting on Twitter that money plays some kind of part in their province’s success.

At the same time, I wrote some comics (The Sorrowful Putto of Prague) that ended up getting published — an incredible experience that even saw the great Samuel L. Jackson offer his blessing and a member of The Cure produce a piece of music for an accompanying online soundtrack. 

The Sorrowful Putto of Prague by James Stafford.

A new book series for rugby history lovers

Lately, a new writing project has rekindled my love for the sport and given me inspiration to renovate the tired old terracing. In February 2021 I will release my first English language book “An Illustrated History of Welsh Rugby: Fun, Facts and Stories from 140 Years of International Rugby”. Published by Polaris Publishing and illustrated by Raluca Moldovan (with additional art by Carys Feehan, Anna Cakebread, Josel Nicolas and Ched De Gala), the book will be the result of almost three years’ work. 

In putting together around 65,000 words for the title, almost as many have been hacked away to the ‘cutting room floor’, so to misspeak.. There was simply too much to put in a readable, commercially viable book. I still want to share some of the stories and tales that didn’t make the final cut, as well as go off on tangents that would have been out of place in the structure of the book.

The Welsh team volume is planned as the first in a series and as research continues, so will the material I want to share. 

All of which is a way of saying The East Terrace will wave goodbye to its satirical focus. While occasional forays into sarcasm and satire may still occur (and we will upload some old classic pieces) the site will take a look at the history of the game as well as feature areas of modern rugby that perhaps don’t get enough light shone on them in mainstream publications. 

Just as an aging journeyman flanker adapts their game to the world around them, it was time for me to refocus this website for today’s rugby community. I hope you’ll visit the new East Terrace from time to time to gaze upon stories of rugby’s past and less told stories of rugby present

Acknowledgment: Thanks as always to Marc Stafford for all his incredible hard work behind the scenes on the tech stuff.