In pictures: New illustrated book tells tale of famous Wales victory over All Blacks
With most of their key players missing, a Wales win against the All Blacks on 30 October looks an increasingly unlikely prospect.
But those looking for succor in past victories can now turn to a new fully illustrated picture book that tells the story of Wales’ heroic win against New Zealand in 1905.
How Wales Beat the Mighty All Blacks by James Stafford aims to tell not only the tale of New Zealand’s first tour to the northern hemisphere but also to teach some Welsh history to young readers.
The huge, intimidating All Blacks had at that point won every game, barely dropping a point. The book follows the story of Gwyn Nicholls who must be persuaded out of retirement to lead his nation’s finest against this daunting foe.
Author James Stafford is no stranger to writing about rugby – he is the founder of cult rugby website The East Terrace and has written on sport for a wide range of national and regional newspapers, websites and magazines.
His previous publications include a collection of webcomics (The Sorrowful Putto of Prague) which was published to critical acclaim in the Czech Republic and praised by Hollywood legend and comic-book fan Samuel L Jackson.
His second book, An Illustrated History of Welsh Rugby (Polaris, 2021) which took a unique look at the 140-year history of the Welsh national team, is an Amazon bestseller.
“I’ve been fascinated by the 1905 All Blacks tour since I was about nine years old and my mother bought me a book on rugby history,” he said.
“This is the game and tour that established rugby as the national sport for both Wales and New Zealand, and was key in defining the role of sport in both countries. It still influences how both nations are viewed today.
“This was also the first time a national anthem was sung by a team before an international sports contest – as Wales wanted something to respond to the haka with. It is now, of course, traditional to start an international sporting occasion like this.”
How Wales Beat the Mighty All Blacks is illustrated by Carys Feehan, James’ niece. Raised in Hong Kong to Welsh parents, Carys is currently studying animation at CalArts University in California, having won a scholarship to study there whilst still a teenager. The images are packed withhistorical detail, such as the kits worn and the slightly different flag used by Wales at the time.
“It was a great experience working with my niece Carys,” says James. “Whilst researching the book with her, we found an old family portrait in my parents’ attic of my great-grandparents taken in 1905. I’d never seen it before, and it was such a coincidence that we used it as one of the pictures on Gwyn Nicholls’ wall in the book! We’ve hidden a few other family things in the book – my wife, children and I appear in a crowd scene on one page, and my parents are also there!”
“The book takes young readers on a journey to Wales’ past and blends storytelling, culture, Welsh history, sport and art. Set against the drama of one of the greatest rugby matches of all time, it showcases the importance of rugby in Wales and teaches children that working hard and not giving up is important and will help them reach whatever goals they may set themselves one day.
“I hope that people enjoy the inspirational story! I think using sport to bring the past alive is a really fun and helpful way to capture children’s imaginations.”
How Wales Beat the Mighty All Blacks by James Stafford (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.
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