When compiling our list of Rugby Highlights, all the contributions were both personal, and a mix of popular and particular. Just like every rugby-conversation though, it is a mix of the most popular, and the most enjoyable moments across another great 12 months for Last Word on Rugby.
Rugby Highlights of 2019 – LWOR top ten
1: South Africa claim the World Cup over England
We could not honestly start anywhere else but in the Rugby World Cup.
For a pinnacle event, the host nation did themselves proud, and provided a great setting for one of the better World Cups. Aside from a Typhoon that denied a France v England match and New Zealand v Italy, the Japan v Scotland match was played.
The knockout stages saw some terrific rugby, with England upsetting New Zealand, before South Africa overcame Wales, to book this classic RWC final. And what a match. The build-up was palpable, with England fans paying high-dollar to attend, only to find a Springbok wall that could not be broken.
Congratulations to your new World Champions, South Africa.
2: Black Ferns 7s play on home soil – HSBC Hamilton Sevens
Our managing editor Scott Hornell began his 2019 by being witness to a first. While the New Zealand women’s rugby sevens team were already Commonwealth and Rugby World Cup Sevens champions, incredibly, they had never performed on the main stage in their home country.
But in late January of this year, NZ Rugby and the HSBC Sevens Series put that poor record straight. The Black Ferns 7s not only performed but they also won a four-team competition, to show their home fans, what they had been missing.
The Kiwis would go on to dominate the women’s World Series, and collected yet another title to get one step closer to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
3: Looking back at past Champions Cup grand finals
Sometimes, past experiences need to be compared to the present. Not that the game hasn’t evolved, but when your memory of a grand final from the previous year or two rings louder than the current final, it is enjoyable to look back.
James Barker, a senior writer for LWOR, enjoys a reflective piece on matches stretching back to 2004, to gain a comparison on the quality players and teams, who have contested for European Rugby supremacy.
4: Guinness Pro14, Gallagher Premiership, French Top14 attendances
From one of our leading writers, Robert Rees researched the average rugby club attendance figures. A detailed analysis of the team’s by alphabetical order – with highest attendance figures in brackets. This item reached more viewers than any other article in Last Word on Rugby history.
Rob has contributed a large volume of features, interviews and news items across International, domestic and his passion for the sport is unquestioned. A great collection itself of rugby highlights, view his catalogue of contributions here.
5: Expose of Steroid use in South African rugby
Our Managing Editor Ryan Jordan looked closely at a subject which some would want to sweep under the carpet. But Last Word on Rugby wanted to find out if recent cases were just the ‘tip of the Iceberg’ of doping in SA rugby?
6: Welsh Rugby head of participation Geraint John interview
Speaking exclusively to Robert Rees, WRU Head of Participation Geraint John discussed a salary cap, a new Commercial Manager and a fresh domestic rugby season as the Indigo Group Welsh Premiership league.
This was one of the several exclusives LWOR broke this year.
7: The Maestro, Eddie Jones has success against the All Blacks
Defining a man is more difficult than to define his impact. Eddie Jones the person, is a character and one who can come across strong. The coach, however, has to be seen for his achievements professionally. And for the England Rugby head coach, that means how his team performs against the very best.
Winning Grand Slams, Six Nations, tours and one-off Test matches are all indicators. So for the legacy of Jones, his success over the last four years has its highs, it’s lows. But in Japan – a team he had coached to their own success – he reached a new height. Defeating New Zealand was the peak of the team’s RWC campaign.
Even if they could not win in the final, that one result; against a team whom he had only confronted once before, will hold his legacy in high regard.
8: Women’s rugby growth a real rugby highlight
No longer seen as an experiment, it is now the norm. Women’s rugby is gaining parity, with more focus from our site, as much as from around the world. Be it the Super Series of International tests in the US, or with the Farah Palmer Cup in New Zealand and the Tyrrells Premiers 15s in the UK, the exposure is becoming a regular feature.
Women and young girls are a growing demographic. Not unique in rugby, with football and many more sports, enjoying high gains in participation. And if the trend is now the norm, then expect more competition for fans’ attention – and possibly soon, a men’s game as the curtain-raiser, for a Women’s International Test.
9: Interview – Stuart Hogg on shifting south to Premiership Rugby
When you want the answers, then why not go straight to the horse’s mouth. And for David Challis, that meant being present at the media press session when Scottish rugby star player, Stuart Hogg, spoke openly of his move south.
Hogg was not the first, and would not be the last to make changes to his team or even in the code, as world-class players, like Fijian superstar Semi Radradra and the enigma that is Sonny Bill Williams, moved teams and moved from Super Rugby north, to play in the Super League.
10: More legends added to World Rugby Hall of Fame
If the discussion over who is the ‘greatest of all time’ was timed for the same time as the Rugby World Cup, then the latest additions to the World Rugby Hall of Fame just continues to add candidates.
In 2019, Richie McCaw – arguably one of the world’s best flankers and captains – was given his due. Besides Sir Graham Henry, Shiggy Konno (Japan), Os du Randt (South Africa), Peter Fatialofa (Samoa), and Diego Ormaechea (Uruguay), were all honoured.
The conversation over the ‘greatest’ will continue, and over the holiday season, LWOR encourages fans to view and read all the past articles, rugby highlights and features of 2019, to carry on those discussions.
This list in fact, could have grown further. Examples like the sensational, International try of the Year (see main photo) by TJ Perenara and other stories, would fill any rugby fans stockings, at this time of the Year.
On behalf of all the contributors, editors and management of Last Word on Rugby, we all wish you a festive season, and the very best for the New Year.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images