Hickie releases star-studded "Rugby Revealed"

AIG Men's Collegiate All-American Head Coach and Dartmouth Head Coach Gavin Hickie has added 'author' to his résumé with the publication of his first book, "Rugby Revealed." Featuring advice from more than 100 international players and coaches, the book breaks down the responsibilities and key skills for each position and demonstrates how these work together to form a successful team in defense and attack.

USA Rugby caught up with Hickie to discuss how he came to write the book, what the challenges were, and what he hopes it will do for players in the U.S.

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USA Rugby: This book came out of your Rugby Positions series on LineoutCoach.com. What was the process there, i.e. were you approached by someone, did you seek out a publisher with the idea?

Gavin: I really enjoy analyzing rugby and writing about it, so when I was approached with an offer to pitch an idea by Bloomsbury back in February 2014 I went for it.

The publishers had seen my LineoutCoach.com website featured in the IRB Coaching newsletter and liked our approach to explaining the sport. My writing partner, Eilidh Donaldson, and I proposed a guide to the modern game which included interviews like those on the website to give the insider's perspective into the world of elite rugby. We got the go-ahead in June with a deadline of December for the final text if we were to make the Rugby World Cup publication date. This was an incredibly short timescale but we set about writing the text and reaching out to players and coaches for their advice.

It was a huge undertaking but an incredible experience. In the end we spoke with over 100 of the best players and coaches from around the world, all of whom agreed to help because they who wanted to help inspire the next generation of rugby players.

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USA Rugby: What were some of the difficulties you found while penning this book?

Gavin: With 80,000 words, over 100 interviews, and just seven months to do it in - all while balancing day jobs - the writing of "Rugby Revealed" was not without its challenges.

You might have expected gathering our 'squad' of contributors would be difficult but it quickly became clear that this was a project people wanted to be part of. I should stress it was always about quality not quantity for us. We wanted the best players and coaches and we got nearly everyone we set out to talk to. We looked to get a balance across positions, ages, countries, clubs, level of experience, and styles of play, and I believe we achieved that. I played with and against a large number of the contributors and reaching out to former teammates to get their insight into their positions was the starting point for the book. Once we got a few players and coaches on board and word spread, it was like a domino effect, which resulted in the assembly of the greatest squad ever and a rugby IQ that is off the charts.

The success of our contributor recruitment drive, however, also brought with it one of the toughest aspects of the process. My writing partner, Eilidh Donaldson, is based in the UK, so we were used to dealing with time zones when writing blogs for the website, however writing a book featuring interviews with players from 14 countries took the logistics to another level. Phone, Skype, email, text, Viber, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn were all used to connect with our contributors at all hours of the day and night in locations across the world.

Of course you want to write the best book you can but getting it out of your head and onto paper wasn't always as easy as I would have liked. I had a clear vision for the book to focus on which helped but the running order proved surprisingly tricky. This book also came with the added pressure of representing the words of others, some of the best in the sport, and this was overwhelming at times. Now the book is complete I feel we have done them justice and hope they are proud to be part of this project.

USA Rugby: What was it like being able to speak with some of the best current and former rugby players for the book? Was that one of the more fun duties of writing it?

Gavin: For a self-confessed 'rugby geek' like myself it was great to talk to all those we interviewed as each brought their own insight on how to play rugby. I have played the game and now I coach the game, and I still came out of this process having learned so much. As a coach you are always learning. I got a new perspective on some aspects and a great insight into how others approach certain situations. For those coming new to rugby, the book is an accessible introduction to the game from the best teachers and for experienced players and coaches alike, "Rugby Revealed" definitely offers an extra few percent which they can add to their game.

As for the most memorable interview, racing around Chicago in a storm trying to talk to the All Black players ahead of their game with the Eagles last November is difficult to beat. When I was finally able to sit down with them, they all went above and beyond despite the demands on their time. To have that experience and then be part of that record crowd at Soldier Field is something I will never forget.


USA Rugby: With the book out now, do you look back on the process with fond memories, or was it tougher - more like a means to an end?

Gavin: Writing a book is really hard work and it is certainly one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my life but I loved it. When you've put so much work into something you want to get a positive reaction and so far it has been great. I was in the U.S. camp with the Eagles when the advance copy arrived and the players and coaches who had featured in the book were really happy with the finished result. That reaction makes all the hard work worthwhile.

The most rewarding part in all of this has to be seeing the rugby community put to the test and pass with flying colors. It has been very humbling to see such generosity and support for the project both here in the U.S. and across the world.

USA Rugby: A description of the book reads: "Rugby Revealed" is the definitive guide to rugby in terms of the roles and responsibilities of each individual position and how they combine to create a tactically astute rugby team." What are your goals for this book? Is it basically the rugby player/coach's bible?

Gavin: I'm really proud of the finished product. It truly is a book for everyone - players can read it to learn the game and develop their skills, parents who read it will gain an understanding of the sport, and I believe it will help coaches find new ways to explain the game to a young audience.

Ultimately I see it acting as a blueprint which delivers new and improved players and coaches for the game. There has been so much progress within the sport in America in recent years with new high school and college programs added weekly, regular international games in the calendar, and player numbers continuing to grow, I believe "Rugby Revealed" can play a part in helping the U.S. reach its rugby potential.

Due to the generosity of the contributors to our project, myself and co-author Eilidh Donaldson are donating a percentage of sales of "Rugby Revealed" to The Barbarians Rugby Charitable Trust whose objective is: The organization or provision or assistance in the organization or provision of the facilities in any part of the world which will enable persons to play, administer and further the game of rugby union football, who by reason of their social economic circumstances have need of such assistance.