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Rugby's tall stories go down well in Exeter

REVIEW: Martin Bayfield's Tall Stories at Exeter Corn Exchange

By Jackson Evans

Retired rugby player - and Robbie Coltrane body-double (for Hagrid the giant, in case you're not a Harry Potter fan) Martin Bayfield brought his 'Rugby Legends' to Exeter's Corn exchange this week.

Joined on stage by former England colleagues Lawrence Dallaglio, Brian Moore and world cup winner Phil Vickery, the ex-England, Northampton blues and Bedford Blue is on tour to coincide with his new book 'A Very Tall Story.' 

The sell-out crowd loved the stories from the man who stands 6'10" high in his rugby-socked feet, as he set the tone of the evening with hilarious stories from the start.

He was 17 years when he was called up for the Bedford Blues team against Bath, coming up against Gareth Chilcott, a seasoned old prop. Bayfield  stuck out an arm and found “one of his many chins” to fend him off. A non-plussed Chilcott shouted: “Do that again young’un and I’ll smash your face in”. Bayfield appeared to the referee, “did you hear that ref!” but only got a sheepish” I did, and I rather hope he was talking to you.” 

Questions from the audience were sent to the stage by QR code, from which Bayfield use his TV interviewing skills on his guests to coax out more humorous stories, covering their careers and what rugby meant to them.

Being in Exeter, the natural topic was the Chiefs, and particularly number eight Sam Simmonds' leaving for Montpellier at the end of the season. That escalated into a broad agreement that English players hate the French.

There was poignancy too. Lawrence Dallaglio explained how he used rugby as a way to deal with the tragedy of losing his sister on the Marchioness disaster on the Thames in 1989. Phil Vickery said he wanted to be a farmer and simply play for his local club. Brian Moore's rugby career started at school, and he enjoyed the bruising physical contact aspect of the game.

The legends' entertaining evening ended with rapturous applause from an audience leaving well satisfied.

Martin Bayfield's Rugby Legends' tour now heads to Edinburgh later this month. If you missed it in Exeter, LoganAir flies between the two cities.

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