Robin Bennett

Rampaging Rugby is the first book in an exciting new series called Stupendous Sports, which aims to not only inspire a love of sports but to teach children everything they could possibly need to know about it. This series combines cartoons, player tips, explanations, fascinating facts and funny stories. It has been cleverly written, with care and attention to detail. Upon completing the book, it dawned on me that there was even a fantastic flip book animation in the corner – amazing! There’s also an incredible fact file at the back and helpful glossary. The highlight of the book has to be the player tips, which in this case were written by Conrad Smith a former All Black and two-time Rugby World Cup winner. Regardless of whether rugby is ‘your’ sport, Rampaging Rugby is a humorous, fascinating and an enjoyable read!

Firstly, a huge well done for Rampaging Rugby, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little bit about the book?

When I finally fell in love with reading, late – aged about 11, I discovered very few books I enjoyed about my first great love, sport. So, for years, I wanted to write a fun, funny and not partisan series about sport – the spirit of the games, more than anything.

Where did the inspiration for the book come from?

Part Horrible Histories, part Beano!

I particularly enjoyed reading the pro tips, which are written by Conrad Smith a former All Black and two-time Rugby World Cup winner. These tips really add another layer and give an authentic experience when reading about rugby. What attracted you to working with Conrad and how did it come about?

I spend some of the year in the Pyrenées. The region is rugby mecca in France with a lot of ex internationals playing at club level. Conrad is a friend and we shared the same vision for the book from the off.

I’ve grown up in a household who adore Rugby League, in particular the Wakefield Wildcats. Do you think this book has a greater appeal to non-rugby fans? Do you think it could even persuade some folks to play?

Yes, I certainly hope so. I think there is enough detail to keep fans on their toes but the humour and the stories are definitely designed to entertain anyone. If something seems fun, then it’s got to be worth a go?

Sportsmanship is a theme that runs throughout and I enjoyed Conrad’s mention of ‘play hard but play fair’.  How do you think rugby compares to football in this respect?

Football definitely is the beautiful game: the intelligence, the all-round abilities and the way it can change in a moment, make it a thing apart. But diving and forcing a foul – looking to compromise a player with play acting breaks my heart and, you’re right, it very rarely happens in rugby. Fantastic Football is coming out in 2022 and I hope to put down a few markers for fair play and honour.

There are countless memorable quotes in the books:

‘The difference between football and rugby… in football the ball is a missile, in rugby, men are missiles.’ Alfred E. Crawley. 

‘Rugby will always hold a place of pride for the role it played… during those first years of our new democracy (in South Africa)’ Nelson Mandela.

How important was it to you to include such a variety of quotes?

I think a book like this is meant to be dipped into, as much as read cover-to-cover. Quotes break it up and create memorable moments, nuggets which can be just as much fun as narrative ark.

How important was it to you to highlight the rapidly growing number of females playing rugby? Do you think this book will appeal to girls as well as boys?

Yes, again, the humour helps, I hope. And I love the fact that in a lot of countries rugby is seen as neither a male or female sport. Our daughter plays and our boys played alongside girls until the age of about 14 and didn’t see anything strange in that.

You mention that you’ve always been a fan of rugby; can you give us an example of a favourite memory?

Seeing our eldest take a high catch deep in his 22, run wide, then belt down the touchline to flick a pass to one of his teammates, who scored. He was only 10 and I nearly burst with pride on the spot.

Speaking from experience, being the scrawny kid at secondary school, the idea of playing rugby terrified me and I didn’t feel like I belonged on the pitch. In the book, you mention that there is a position for everyone – can you elaborate on this idea for our readers?

Certainly. I was a short and stocky (to put it politely) at 9, so I played in the scrum (hooker), until I lost weight at around 13 but found I could run like a rabbit (wing). Then everyone caught up with me – literally – and I bulked out a bit so, at 17, I finally discovered my ‘spot’ (full back).

Rampaging Rugby is part of the Stupendous Sports series. What other sports can we look forward to reading about?

Well there’s Fantastic Football next year, followed by Cracking Cricket. After that, I’d like to look at something a bit more unusual – perhaps skateboarding! Keep an eye out on

Can you describe the Rampaging Rugby in three words?

Fun, funny, factual

Thanks for having me VIP Reading – lovely way to start the day

Q & A hosted by
Rob McCann