• David Martin
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David Martin

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Rugby Grub: “The Hooligan’s Table” Combines the Best Rugby-Inspired Recipes

Cookbook features breakfast dishes, hearty stews, pub favorites, pastas and a cocktail or two

(NEW YORK) Just published, The Hooligan’s Table: The Rugby Player’s Cookbook offers up a sampling of dishes from rugby players, rugby fans and from pubs and restaurants that rugby players call home. The Hooligan’s Table features more than 80 recipes, from hearty soups and stews (Chapter 2,” In the Scrum”) to the 12 sandwich and burger variations in Chapter 4 (“Hands in the Ruck”) to the delicious desserts detailed in the “Sin Bin.”

The Hooligan’s Table offers up pub favorites like bangers and mash and shepherd’s pie – a traditional recipe that hails from The Chip Shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., owned by a transplanted Englishman. There are regional dishes like Cincinnati Chili and Philly Cheesesteaks, hailing from the popular South Philly pub O’Neal’s – home to two rugby teams. There’s even a recipe for Wafu Style Pasta, a dish from Harry’s in Singapore – a popular hangout for rugby players around the world who have made their home in the Asian rugby stronghold.

“I wanted to put together a book that showcases the wide range of food enjoyed by rugby players around the world and across the table,” said author David Martin. “Rugby players come from diverse places and have diverse tastes. The Hooligan’s Tableaims to present a smorgasbord of cuisine inspired by the sport both on and off the pitch.”

But it’s not just about food. There are rugby stories and you will meet great rugby personalities along the way. One of those is A Monk Swimming author, ex-rugby player and raconteur Malachy McCourt. The Hooligan’s Tableoffers a look into an international sport that is not just a game, but a worldwide community with a lively cast of characters.

In the United States, rugby has seen a rise in popularity on several levels including youth rugby. Nearly one million viewers in the U.S. tuned into the 2011 Rugby World Cup final of France vs. New Zealand, even though the game was at 4 a.m. Some 4 billion fans around the world watched as least some of the world cup games. Only the soccer World Cup and the Olympics draw more viewers worldwide. Rugby will be included in the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Out of that mix of players and popularity, there is a lot of great traditions, great recipes and great chefs.

“One thing the surprised me as I collected recipes was the culinary skills of players,” said Martin. “There are a lot of teams and players with great club food traditions. There are a lot of guys who are great cooks and love to share their love of cooking and entertaining with their teammates. This book helps invite a lot more friends to the party.”

The chapters are all rugby terms. Chapter 1 is Line-Outs which is how play begins after the ball goes out of bounds. In The Hooligan’s Table these are appetizers, small dishes, like the South African sausages, boerwors. A scrum is sort of organized mayhem of 16 men locked together pushing against each other for ball possession. In Chapter 2, In the Scrum there is a gumbo of one-pot meals such as cheddar and stout soup from the most popular rugby pub in Chicago and the French Alsatian classic, backeeoffe, a slow simmered mix of chicken, beef and ham with a white wine marinate.

Main dishes are named after the heart of the backfield, The Centers. Here you will find an Irish twist on curry chicken and from The Australian, a popular rugby bar in Midtown Manhattan, kangaroo filet. Hands in the Ruck is illegal in rugby when the ball is on the ground and players contest for the ball in an elaborate shoving match. Here it means food you pick up and eat with your hands, like the Lamb Burger and pulled pork sandwiches. From a popular Los Angeles beach bar with a Cal-Mex menu called Sharkeez, comes a spicy and cheesy dish called Mexican Crazy Corn, that’s in the Free Kicks chapter of sides and salads.

The desserts in Sin Bin, which gets its name from the area where a player has to stand after committing a penalty, include The Gut Bomb, think lots of chocolate. To score in rugby you have to touch the ball down when you get past the try line. In the The Hooligan’s Table, the last chapter, Try Line, includes breakfasts dishes and cocktails. From the heart of New Orleans and Slim Goodie’s Diner comes a concoction of eggs, latkas and crawfish. The current James Bond, Daniel Craig is a former rugby player so it’s fitting the book ends with a recipe for The Perfect Martini.

“This book disproves a central myth about rugby players: that their only form of consumption is fluid and invariably involves alcohol! The truth is that while we all like a drink, we also like good food - and this book is full of it,” said Martin Bashir of NBC News and Village Lions RFC scrumhalf.

“Ok, rugby players like their food, but David Martin busts the myth that quantity is preferred to quality, and finds the rugby players palette far more discerning than many would give them credit for, ” said Nigel Melville, president and chief operating officer of USA Rugby

The Hooligan’s Table: The Rugby Player’s Cookbook was written by David Martin. Currently a player for the Gentlemen of New York, the old boys team for the New York Rugby Club, Martin began his career in 1980 with the Florida State University Rugby Club. Since then he has played with various teams including the Miami Tridents and the Mystic River Hombres, a traveling side of old boys. He continues to play and is an active referee. He also coaches the New York Rugby Club’s Under-19 team. He has played rugby around the U.S. and taken the field in Europe, South Africa, the Caribbean and in Asia.

Professionally, he is a newswriter with WABC-TV Eyewitness News in New York City. He has previously worked as producer at CBS News, the Fox News Channel and as a reporter with the New York Daily News, the Staten Island Advance and Reuters. David Martin has written about rugby for many years at Rugby Magazine and also writes for rugby websites including For more information about The Hooligan’s Table, visit The Photos from The Hooligan’s Table are at David can be reached at