Sketches from Memory

‘Barnes all over – literate, vivid, controversial’

Stephen Jones, The Sunday Times


‘Beautifully written – thoughtful, insightful and compelling’

Rugby World


'Barnes writes as he once played: dull orthodoxy remains his sworn enemy. From Bob Dylan to Bath and Shakespeare to Sky, there is something for everyone in these honest, trenchant, revealing and
occasionally poetic pages. Sketches from Memory is not any old rugby book: to misquote CLR James, what do they know of rugby who only rugby know? Pour yourself a glass of red, stick a bit of Dylan on and immerse yourself in vintage Barnes'

Robert Kitson, The Guardian


‘A blast. Barnes is one of rugby’s original thinkers. He looks at the game like few others’

Tom English, BBC Sport


‘A lovely read. Barnes paints a rich, broad picture of a lifetime in rugby with typical honesty and lyrical, impressionistic splashes of colour’

Owen Slot, The Times



Remembered as one of the most controversial playing names during the dying days of the English amateur era and now regarded as one of the shrewdest and most perceptive observers in the media – both on television and in print – Stuart Barnes has spent over forty years of his life immersed in rugby union.

In Sketches from Memory, he combines autobiography with an objective and off-beat study of the sport, taking us on a twisting, meandering journey from his childhood in the 1970s, through to the height of his playing career in the 1980s and 1990s, and right up to the present day as he studies the contemporary game with the astute eye of a master analyst.

Eschewing the more traditional structure of a sports book, Barnes abandons chronology to allow past and present to mingle, presenting his memoirs as an alphabetical soup with the letters of the alphabet and not the numbers, dates and years of his life leading the narrative. It is a refreshing, beguiling and absorbing approach that allows the dedicated reader to complete the book in sequence, or the bed-side reader to flick from one letter to the next without losing the thread.

Honest, insightful, funny and wise, Sketches from Memory is a fascinating study of the game of rugby union, exploring its myriad enchantments, controversies and world-famous characters in a way that no other book has done before.



Born in Essex, raised in Wales and educated at Oxford University, Stuart Barnes won ten caps for England before becoming the face – and voice – of rugby union on Sky Sports in 1994, where he continues to work today. An author of three books on rugby (Rugby’s New-Age Travellers was the runner up in the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award in 1997), he has written for a range of publications including Rugby World and the Telegraph and is a regular columnist for The Times and Sunday Times.