Rugby Union, a sport that in terms of romantic potential has traditionally ranked just behind the trenches of the Somme, is turning over a new leaf.
Apparently unconcerned by accusations of tinkering while the Red Rose burns, the Rugby Football Union announced this week an eight-book deal with publishers Mills and Boon in a bid to take the sport to a new audience.
The books, the first of which is called The Prince’s Waitress Wife, will be issued one a month between February and September and will contain all the classic M&B ingredients – in their words not mine: “Jet set locations, hunky alpha male heroes and hot sex, but in a rugby context.”
Details of each novel are jealously guarded though it is not thought Ian Smith will be featured striding across a windswept, rain-lashed Billesley Common with his silver hair glinting in the moonlight and his silver tongue ready to seduce an unsuspecting heroine. Not that he would, of course.
I also understand the changing rooms at Sharmans Cross Road have not provided inspiration and that the endless development work at Sixways precluded it from being considered as a ‘jet-set location’.
Nothing to do with the fact you can hear the M5.
As much as these venues could do with some aesthetic input, they are not the primary concerns of the RFU who, according to series editor Jenny Hutton, have much more grand intentions.
“Our mission statement is to do for rugby what Jilly Cooper did for polo – to give it an air of sexiness and glitz and glamour. You don’t have to like rugby to like the books.”
It is not clear whether you have to like the books to like rugby.
Rugby as polo? Interesting concept. I’ve seen many a donkey at the Butts Park and no little manure at Stourton but there has been a distinct lack of royalty and caviar at either venue.
According to Mills and Boon one third of rugby’s audience is female, the idea is to drag this figure somewhere closer to 50 per cent.
To help with that the books will contain a Girls’ Guide to Rugby. One can only imagine what that will include and it is here I really must resist the temptation to indulge in the sort of sexist badinage that could get me into trouble.
Not for one minute would I suggest that a woman-sensitive definition of a scissors move has anything to do with sewing nor that a good shoeing in any way involves Jimmy Choo. I’d better stop.
What I do wonder, however, is why. Surely most sensible readers of Mills and Boon novels, assuming there are any, are already fully aware of the existence of rugby and won’t suddenly go down the Bees because Jonny Thunderbolt happens to hail from Solihull.
Heavens knows it’d take more than a quick ‘Would you like to be converted?’ to tempt any of the women I know to Windy Alley on a cold January day.
Perhaps a more fruitful genre might have been science fiction. Fans of Steven Moffat would no doubt come like pilgrims to Coventry if Doctor Who was brought in to investigate the mysteries surrounding last summer’s survival.
And imagine the influx of Agatha Christie devotees through the gates of Sixways in search of the solution to Loki Crichton’s Missed Penalty. Perhaps not.
Indeed maybe the whole project is a complete waste of the RFU’s time.
Could that effort have been better spent tending to the bizarre system where Wasps can’t pick their fit internationals, or the fact most academy players don’t see the light of day or even considering the possibility of an acceptably funded and structured First Division.
There I go again playing the part of curmudgeon when the answer to all our travails lies between the pages of The Prince’s Waitress Wife. Pass me a copy will you.