As an organization, Last Word on Rugby looks forward to the New Year, as much as anyone. We too, like to review many of the incredible accomplishments that have occurred over the past 12 months, the key moments over the calendar before making any ‘rugby resolutions’ ahead of the next year.
Fondly as we might see what has happened from last January to the final matches of 2018, it is subjective. So all the accomplishments noted here can only be a fraction of the huge range of highlights and outcomes that fans witnessed around the globe.
And with our breadth of contributors, from Ireland to South Africa, from Fiji to Gloucester, LWOR has seen a great deal. So on this New Years day, sit back and reflect on this best of collection, before we offer up some ‘rugby resolutions’ for the next 12 months.
2018 Incredible Accomplishments and Key Moments
The year began with some nations still considering results of 2017. One of those badly affected was South Africa. After consideration, Allister Coetzee agreed to end his term as Springboks head coach.
Then, (after a long period of pondering) Rassie Erasmus is decided on as the new Springbok head coach. By September, his team achieves an incredible 34-36 victory over the All Blacks in Wellington, that endorses his position. In fact, the first win by any South African team in New Zealand, since 2009.
Springboks defy the odds, in superb defensive performance over All Blacks
That huge turnaround in fortune was the opposite of how another International side progressed through the year. This one, had risen gradually from the outset, but once 2018 had entered the crucial Six Nations stage, Ireland set their sights high.
Ireland defeats England to secure Grand Slam https://t.co/P1Wy84jKWK pic.twitter.com/jnovV6aFUu
— CNN (@CNN) March 17, 2018
By the time that the June Internationals arrived, Ireland traveled down to Australia with the intention of leaving with a Series win. Not a clean sweep (as England achieved) but the 1-2 result ensured that by the final test fixtures of 2018, all eyes were fixed on one date: November 18.
The accomplishment of defeating the All Blacks is undoubtedly the biggest prize in Rugby. To do it for the second time in two years was astounding but, to achieve the feat on home soil, drove the nation to ecstatic celebrations. And when halting the New Zealand team from scoring a try, it was a monumental outcome – that will count for more, come October in Japan.
Domestic Rugby, Rugby Sevens and Women’s Rugby
To note all of the accomplishments over the last 12 months, it might be more effective to list several of them, in bullet points. So here is a handful of domestic, rugby sevens and bright points last year.
- Chris Ashton proves that he is still a world class winger, breaking the French Top14 try scoring record [he is later re-selected for England]
- Leinster are crowned four-time Heineken Champions Cup champions, after defeating Scarlets in an accomplishment that reinforces the status of Irish Rugby
- Saracens wrestle back the Aviva Premiership title, after defeating the Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham, in a stellar example of how strong Northern hemisphere rugby is.
- New Zealand women and men both secure Gold medals at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The All Blacks Sevens defeat Fiji, as the Black Ferns Sevens hold off hosts Australia, to avenge their loss in the 2016 Olympic Games final
- South Africa reclaim the men’s HSBC Sevens Series title, after holding off the challenge of Fiji – who won four consecutive HSBC tournaments – but the Blitzbok are champions again
- Hosts France beat England 33-25 in the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship in Beziers
- In the first of three leading Tier One nations head coach announcements, Scarlets Wayne Pivac is chosen as the replacement for Warren Gatland; at the conclusion of the 2019 RWC
- To underline their dominance, New Zealand men and women claim back-to-back Rugby World Cup Sevens titles, in San Francisco
- After one round of the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership, the Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor is sacked, in an indication of the fragility of professional club rugby
- In a long suspected appointment, former All Blacks coach John Mitchell is handpicked by Eddie Jones to be his England Rugby assistant coach (defence)
- Canada win the Repechage tournament and qualify as the 20th and final country for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan
- Fiji claim one of their biggest International test victories, in defeating France 14-21
- After successfully defeating the All Blacks on home soil, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt stuns the rugby world, by announcing he will resign from his post after the 2019 RWC, to concentrate on his family [not looking to continue coaching in the meantime], with Andy Farrell to replace him in 2020.
- Barbarians Rugby added one more accolade to their rich history, with a defeat of Argentina in a fine exhibition that proved, Barbarians Rugby always brings out the best in Players. The side, coached by Rassie Erasmus, end a year of solid development for the Springboks (as well as demonstrating the
- In a pointer to the rise in respect of the place women’s rugby holds, for the first time ever, a female player wins the Kel Tremaine NZ Rugby Player of the Year award. Canterbury and Black Ferns XV halfback Kendra Cocksedge, holds out Codie Taylor and Brodie Retallick, to win the major award for her accomplishments over the rugby calendar year
Today’s @TelegraphSport Final Whistle on can @kenj0119 Kendra Cocksedge winning New Zealand's top player (male or female!) award shows changing attitudes towards women's rugby?
Also features a 1960s All Black legend & a Prime Minister! #WomenInSport https://t.co/f8S72k1dnI
— Kate Rowan (@KateLouiseRowan) December 19, 2018
In a final rugby-twist, Steve Hansen confirms what some suspected – he would end his 16-year coaching term with the All Blacks, after the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Of note, no announcement on his replacement, and none on his future role in the game, was made by NZ Rugby.
Making our New Years ‘Rugby resolutions’
For any fan, their rugby resolutions may include a domestic or International victory. A few can be selfishly chosen but in general, fans want what is best for the game.
So that might mean during the Six Nations, Rugby Championship or pre-RWC Internationals, your team performs well. Those occasions might be reduced in this RWC cycle, but will evidently be so much more important than at any time otherwise.
If your ‘rugby resolution’ stretches to the sport as a whole, then many will want clarity. As much in rugby-rulings, on-field decisions and the interpretation. In fact, a few might conclude that ‘all they want for the New Year’ is clear interpretation.
Since it is the 1st of Jan, I'm thinking of a #rugbyresolution
What do I wish for in 2019…..and I won't go the obvious [Oct in Japan] so I wish for better #Interpretation
Let's hope that referees across the range in 2019, all make decisions that are both reactive & positive pic.twitter.com/WWpjJMafQN
— scott hornell (@scotthornell73) January 1, 2019
Many more will ask for enjoyment. That is in relation to the type, and style of rugby. Open, running rugby is enviable, but players and coaches game planning dictate how teams enter a match. Consider a Super Rugby match; final score 38-42. Enjoyable to some, yet for others it demonstrates poor defence. So an 8-16 result in PRO14 also can be enjoyed, with the side who can overcome pressure, and to ‘out play’ the other side resulting in a great match.
That might apply at the Rugby World Cup – where many a rugby resolution will be made. Fans might ask that their team enters the tournament on form, although fewer International matches mean that teams like Tonga are invited to play the All Blacks, all in preparation for September.
Look for more locally orientated Rugby Resolutions in 2019
Your resolution could then not occur for a longtime, so Last Word on Rugby could recommend more ‘short term’ options. Hope that your local rugby club can put out a full strength Premier side. And, that they can also produce a women’s team, or at least have the development in place for the future. Because the future is in both men’s and women’s participation.
Wish that thinking, some will wish that the domestic rugby scene produces new talent to rises up into the International level. The best example being Karl Tu’inukuafe. The onetime overweight security guard went from Mitre 10 Cup, to joining Super Rugby and quickly being called into the All Blacks. Jordan Lamour also made a huge rise, from the Rugby Sevens team, to starring for Irish Rugby.
Stories like this, and the transition of non-rugby players; like Perry Baker and Portia Woodman, to becoming the face of HSBC Sevens Series marketing shows that you could wish that exposure to rugby, can produce more superstars of the future.
These rugby resolutions may also stretch to helping emerging nations. That rugby resolutions for better exposure for teams like Georgia, Portugal and Papua New Guinea, all can use regional competitions and directly benefit from World Rugby funding.
So when looking at what you might wish for, make it relative. Of course, one of the 20 teams in Japan will win the event. Your favourite team will benefit from support, yet in relation, fans local rugby club or support for rugby administration and development, will be more appreciative. And if that wish can transpire into action; volunteering time or investing in the grassroots, will surely make this New Years rugby resolution, more self-satisfying.
Staff at Last Word on Rugby wish all our readers a happy & prosperous 2019
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images