Author Q&A:
Brian Moore

Former England rugby union star Brian Moore has won the prestigious William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for 2010

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A pitbull of a hooker for England in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Moore’s autobiography, Beware of the Dog, has just won him the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2010. “Candid and rigorous”, said the judges of his book, which touches on his adoption and revelations of sexual abuse as a child as well as a career that brought him 64 England caps. His new book, The Thoughts of Chairman Moore, is out now.

The Big Issue in the North: So, another trophy for you.
Brian Moore: It’s in a very different area. My achievements on the rugby field were a long time ago and although they weren’t commonplace, they were in a familiar context. But this is my first step into the literary world and I hadn’t realised what a prestigious prize this is. It’s equally satisfying.

How did you write the book?
I sat down in my garden office and just got started. I work from home so the physical separation is important. The difficult thing was to decide whether to do it chronologically or thematically. Either way the reader was going to have to make leaps but I’ve got perspective on aspects of my life now and I can see links that I couldn’t before so there were fewer problems to do it thematically. It wasn’t easy to do, though. Until almost the last stage, it seemed bitty and piecemeal but all of a sudden it came together. As I hadn’t written a book before I didn’t know if that was normal. It took me three times longer than it would take me now and there were lots of rewrites and tears. Partly the book was an exercise in clarity on the issues of abuse and adoption. Going through them to make them clear to the reader helped make them clearer for me. But it wasn’t a pleasant process and I stopped if it ever threatened to read like American psychobabble.

How did you get into rugby?
I loved football and played it until I was 11. Then I went to a rugby playing school. You either like contact sports or you don’t. I really liked it.

Halifax is a rugby league town as well. Did you ever play the other code?
I did play rugby league sometimes, although you could never let anyone find out. I really enjoyed it. The players never had a problem with the rival codes. It was the administrators and some fans.

Career highlights?
Winning the third match on the British Lions’ tour to Australia in 1989. That Lions team is almost forgotten but was pretty special. I was lucky enough to get on two Lions tours when some very talented players didn’t get on one. Winning the first Grand Slam against France in 1991. But I don’t think about games very often. I think about the camaraderie and the great characters. We don’t meet up very often because everyone’s very busy but when we do, at dinners or internationals, we are still very familiar. Those life-enhancing relationships are the most valuable thing about my career.

But you say your enjoyment of rugby was limited.
Towards the end we were asked to be professionally fit without the time to do it, while holding down a job. It was very difficult and in the end unsustainable. Rugby union was always going to go professional – it was just a matter of when. The Rugby Football Union has substantially improved but it didn’t handle that well.

What’s the state of English rugby now, compared with when you were a player?
It’s developing. After the World Cup success there was only one way to go and that was down but it shouldn’t have been so substantially down. For the current crop of players the next World Cup is probably coming a season too early and you never know about the one after. Winning the World Cup’s not rocket science but you have to get it right for six weeks.

You were unusual in rugby for expressing your support for Labour.
I’ve changed a bit. Become a family man and you become more right wing. The instinct to protect goes beyond reason – you feel it in your gut, not your head. I was never a socialist but I was left of centre. Now I’m economically right wing but socially left of centre. That’s not wishy-washy – I’ve got very firm views – but it is possible to coherently hold left and right views.

What now for you? More books?
Duncan Hamilton [previous William Hill winner] said winning the prize gives you more options because publishers trust your instinct and know you can write. One idea is about retirement from sport. The prospect terrified me and I floundered. I wish someone had been available to talk me through it. You have to get used to the idea that nothing you do will be of the same intensity. When to retire is another question – almost no one gets it right.

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Brian Moore

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