As we move into 2015, we can't help but look back before things move forward. The Rugby World Cup in New Zealand back in 2011 seems like an age ago, and now a Rugby World Cup on UK soil sounds truly mouth watering
Some things have changed in the three-and-a-bit years since that final at Eden Park, and others have remained the same. New Zealand still dominate world rugby, but - despite the relatively new scrummage rules - props still love to be the centre of attention for as long as possible at scrum time!
Here are our thoughts and predictions for the big competitions in rugby in the year to come…
2015 RBS 6 Nations
Scotland will be aiming to start a new legacy under new coach Vern Cotter, and wipe clean the mostly abysmal form over the past decade. England as ever are “a team in progress”, world-beaters one week, furiously frustrating to watch the next. Wales appear to be going through a slight slump in form and/or confidence but can’t ever be written off. Ireland (minus Brian O'Driscoll) look favourites for the title for a second consecutive year. France are gloriously inconsistent as always, living up to this tag as far back as the 1980’s, so who knows what side will turn up!? Italy still lack the domestic structure to really pour out the necessary top quality players.
Winners – Ireland
(including a Grand Slam)
Bottom of the table – Italy
(Wooden Spoon “winners”)
European Champions Cup
It’s difficult to predict a winner so early on in the replacement for the Heineken Cup, but as things stand, Toulouse are the only team with a 100% record from 4 pool games, and French sides top 3 of the 5 pools. Harlequins and Northampton Saints lead their groups but it is still all to play for.
Winners – Toulon
with their 3rd
title in a row to create a legacy in European rugby.
12 games into the season, it’s Ospreys who lead the way, but it is tight at the top with Glasgow, Munster, Leinster and Ulster all within 5 points. As usual, the Italian sides are fighting it out at the bottom, with Zebre and Benetton Treviso each with just 2 wins apiece.
Winners – Glasgow
to make up for the heartache at the hands of Leinster last season and break Scotland’s major trophy duck.
2015 Rugby World Cup
The big one! Pool A features Australia, England, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay, meaning one big side won’t progress to the knockout stages. 2003 winners England are the “home” side and will no doubt expect to feature in the final at Twickenham. Top 2 – England
Scotland are likely to have a must-win test against Samoa to see who makes it out of Pool B with South Africa, with Japan and USA also in the group. Top 2 – South Africa
Pool C sees New Zealand (the current World Cup and Rugby Championship holders) the side to beat having sat at the top of the rankings since late 2010. Argentina should finish second, ahead of Tonga, Georgia and Namibia. Top 2 – New Zealand
France are the top seeds in Pool D, a group that also contains Ireland and Italy, but as with the Six Nations, nobody knows what to expect from Les Bleus. Canada and Romania will be the also-rans. Top 2 – France
Things get interesting once the knockout stages begin, where it’s all to play for. However, when it comes to picking a winner, we would have to agree with all the bookmakers and say it’s hard to look past the mighty All Blacks.
Lots to come in 2015 and here at Rugbystuff.com, we can’t wait until the international season kicks off when Wales host England at the Millennium Stadium on 6th
February in the first game of the 2015 RBS Six Nations.