I met Martin Castrogiovanni last month. He was Guinness rugby premiership player of the year for 2006-2007 season, an Italian international and a key member of Leicester's ferocious pack of forwards. He speaks Spanish, having been born in Argentine, Italian and English an awful lot better than my Spanish despite having barely been in England for 18 months. Yet he never reads a book.
I have written about the loss of education opportunities for young rugby players elsewhere as they sign professional terms and foresake the teacher training colleges, colleges of physical education and universities that many of us attended to help advance our rugby careers before the advent of professionalism.
Now I am not saying when I played we would sit around the changing room throwing copies of Proust and Keats about but there were invariably some articulate blokes in the changing room who could string a three syllable word together and speak without sounding as wholly inarticulate as our professional footballing counterparts whose brains were invariably in their boots.
Now when you talk to top young professional rugby players often the same charmless grunts emanate as they do from the multi millionaire Yahoos whose graceless antics erase whatever admiration one might have for their footballing skills. 'What hobbies do you enjoy?' 'Uh, computer games.' 'When you are not playing computer games what do you do? 'Rest and watch telly.'
Nothing else. When not eating, training, playing or resting they watch telly and play computer games.I know some clubs take their young players education very seriously but how many of the players do? Us amateur old lags already had a job so had no culture shock when our playing days were over. Many of today's under educated, well paid athletes will have a horribly chill awakening unless they start squirreling some money away now and take their education as seriously as they do their rugby.
But as some of them never read anything, how will they find out?