David Hands has left The Times after 32 years, 28 of them as rugby correspondent.
Hands says that his departure, part of yet another round of redundancies at The Times and Sunday Times, is “entirely amicable” but he hopes to continue his close connection with the game as a freelance, bringing to bear the experience gained from covering six World Cups, six Lions tours and an estimated 600 international matches.
Also leaving The Times‘s sports staff is racing writer Julian Muscat, desk man Marcus Williams and football reporters Russell Kempson and Nick Szczepanik, whose work has already started appearing in The Independent and The Guardian.
A successor as Times rugby union correspondent has yet to be named.
When Hands joined The Times in 1978, he had learned his trade on the South Wales Argus and the Leicester Mercury. But in the course of the next 30 years he reported on immense changes in rugby at a time of substantial evolution in the newspaper business.
From portable typewriter to laptop and mobile telephone he has, like everyone in the business, adjusted to both new styles and fresh demands, not least the frantic requirement in the modern era for instant analysis and the service not only of his newspaper but its website.
Hands has written several books, among them the autobiographies of England’s Rory Underwood and Peter Wheeler, a history of the Five Nations Championship and the centenary history of Leicester. He has taken part in radio work, been chairman and secretary of the Rugby Union Writers’ Club and served on various advisory committees established by the International Rugby Board prior to successive World Cups.
“It has been a privilege to have spent so long as a representative of one of the most famous newspapers in the world,” Hands told sportsjournalists.co.uk.
“It has allowed me to sit in on times of great change within rugby, most notably the acceptance in 1995 of professionalism which made the sport – possibly for the only time in its history – the lead story on The Times‘s front page. At the same time there has been massive change in the newspaper industry, including the painful move from Gray’s Inn Road to Wapping, the computerisation of the business and the growing challenge of the new media.
“The 24/7 approach to news clearly creates problems for newspapers which they are still in the process of resolving – if, indeed, they can do so. The overweening significance attached to football coverage will not aid that process – as rugby is finding with its burgeoning international programme, more is not necessarily better.
“But I have been proud of my contribution to the coverage of rugby in England which I hope will continue, in some shape or form, for a few more years yet. When one door creaks to close, others open and I live in hope that views formulated over a lifetime will provide both context and relevance in a sometimes overheated sporting world.”