A LIFELONG rugby fan from Barry has had an ‘overwhelming response’ to his latest book.

James Stafford, who grew up in in Barry and lived there until his early 20s, recently published a book through Polaris Publishing: An Illustrated History of Welsh Rugby: Fun, Facts and Stories from 140 Years of International Rugby.

His previous work – The Sorrowful Putto of Prague – is a Czech comic, described as ‘dope’ by Samuel L. Jackson on Twitter, with the actor also writing readers were ‘in for a treat’.

Mr Stafford, who has lived in Prague with his wife and son since 2017, spent around two and a half years on his latest work often working into the early hours.

Mr Stafford said: “The book involved so much research, reading and stat checking it makes me shiver to think about it.

"I worked on it in my spare time and often would go months without going to bed before 1am, 2am, or even 3am. My amazing father also spent hundreds of hours proof reading and entering stats – he really is the best father ever.”

His family has rugby roots with relatives, and himself, previously playing for Barry Plastics (now Sully Sports). His latest book differs from other rugby-based books, as it used illustrations instead of photos.

Barry And District News: England v Wales by Raluca Moldovan

England v Wales by Raluca Moldovan

“Almost every book on rugby history reuses the same photos and I wanted to do something different,” added Mr Stafford.

“Also I wanted to appeal to younger readers and people who may get put off by old sports photography.

“Using illustrations allowed the artists and I to present things in a fresh way and help the storytelling. It allows us to have fun, reimagine things as well as make a few key moments a little more poignant.

“I knew it would make the book stand out as no one has really done this in rugby. The response has been amazing so I'm really glad we went for this approach. The publisher, Polaris Publishing, saw the potential of the idea and were really excited and it was a key reason they bought into the concept.”

The bulk of the artwork in the book is by the ‘amazingly talented’ Romanian artist Raluca Moldovan but the cover was designed by Mr Stafford’s niece, Carys Feehan who is currently studying animation in Calarts, a prestigious art college in California which is famous for producing Pixar and Disney talent.

Barry And District News: Carys Feehan created the cover artCarys Feehan created the cover art

An Illustrated History of Welsh Rugby: Fun, Facts and Stories from 140 Years of International Rugby has earned media attention and praise.

Wales Arts Review editor, Gary Raymond, wrote: “A lighthearted, but also weighty, well researched, passionate and fun and serious look at our national game.”

And WRU wrote: "An impressive amount of detail has gone into [its] creation.”

“The response has been overwhelming," said Mr Stafford.

"From getting interviewed by Roy Noble on his show to getting amazing reviews on BBC Radio Wales, in the Western Mail and all sorts of podcasts and websites, it's been quite humbling.

“The response on Twitter has been great too with lots of support from the rugby community and other writers too.

"What's been amazing is seeing how many people bought a copy for themselves and then went out and bought more as gifts for others. And people of all ages have taken to it as well.”

Mr Stafford is now working on the next part of the series – ‘An Illustrated History of English Rugby’ – which is due to be published in 2022.

He is also collaborating with Carys Feehan to release an illustrated children's picture book on the famous 1905 Wales v New Zealand match: How Wales Beat the Mighty All Blacks which will be published by Y Lolfa in October (2021).