For many, the vintage of rugby 2021 will probably raise a lot of discussion and differing opinions. That shouldn’t be a bad thing, with less than two years away from the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.
Here, our Last Word on Sports rugby department selected a few articles that represented the year in rugby 2021.
Rugby 2021: A reflection
First up, was Thomas Booth. His focus was on rugby in Wales over the past year.
Welsh Rugby’s winners and losers in 2021
Who are Welsh rugby’s winners and losers in 2021? Plus, what were some of the standout moments of the year?
Yes, Wales triumphed in this year’s Six Nations but, did it have a bit of a ‘meh’ feel given the lack of crowds and the somewhat fortunate nature of some of their victories? Honestly, it did (and it still does). What followed was a difficult and unsuccessful series at home to Argentina (with many first-teamers touring with the British and Irish Lions in South Africa).
Completed in November by the Autumn Series, Wayne Pivac and his side finished with a 50% win ratio against Southern Hemisphere opposition, and with more to work on than to recall glowingly.
Next up was Charlie Inglefield. His choice was England Rugby.
England Rugby 2021: State of the Nation report a positive one
There is never a dull moment under Eddie Jones whether you are an England rugby fan, a player or a coach. The usual stoushes and flirting with the media, lost in translation barbs over Great Britain’s most promising sports stars (think tennis) and selections that no one saw coming. But, Eddie Jones has got England’s rugby team purring nicely as we head into what will be a fascinating 2022 Six Nations.
Enjoy the full article.
Next in line was our Canadian rugby expert, Raheem Bashir. He covered both rugby union and league.
A 2021 overview of Canadian rugby of both codes
The 2021 overview of Canadian rugby of both codes is mixed. There were some absolute highs with the formation of a new pro rugby league in Canada. However, there were also some low points, which were highlighted by Rugby Canada failing to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Also, in rugby league, the Ottawa Aces XIII permanently relocated to England to become Cornwall R.L.F.C.
Still, there were some other positives. This included rugby league, where the NARL was announced this year. This meant that the Toronto Wolfpack still existed after being kicked out of Super League in 2020. Also, in rugby union, Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, made a speech praising the Toronto Arrows for playing the entire season this year in the U.S. because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Up next was Kiwi rugby correspondent Scott Hornell, our Senior Editor, and LWOS department head.
NZ Rugby 2021 had some Good and some Bad in an unsettled year
In the calendar year, reports and analysis are due and with consideration of the NZ Rugby 2021 season, you would be correct in classifying it as ‘some good, some bad’.
Unsettled yes. Disastrous, No. That isn’t accurate. Three losses for the national team yes – both men’s and the women’s Black Ferns disappointed. Each had an end-of-year to forget. There were as many positives though, with Gold for each rugby sevens squad, the Crusaders dominating domestically, and the Blues claiming a title for the longest time. Add that to the record commercial revenue streams brought on board.
All good for the commercial team, yet with internal reports, stakeholder consternation, and even the suggestion of a player breaking down due to mental health and unfavourable inter-personnel relationships, how can it not be seen as ‘troubled’. Though if every review was negative, nobody would read or enjoy them. And rugby is a game that needs positive results on the field that is naturally followed by a positive reaction from the fans. NZ (New Zealand) Rugby has to agree, the calendar was not one to frame or hand out plaudits yet, with many star players re-signing with the union, the future is still bright downunder.
Finally, South African rugby reporter and Managing Editor, Ryan Jordan, published his piece focusing on the Springboks and Blitzboks 7s sides.
Springbok Rugby 2021: The good, the bad, and the ugly
There can’t be any complaint about where Springbok rugby and the Blitzboks ended the calendar year of 2021. The Springboks regained the number one position in World Rugby’s rankings. Some may say that they were “lucky” to do so, but such is the nature of World Rugby’s points exchange system. New Zealand lost two games against teams ranked below them, the Springboks lost one.
The Blitzboks 7s side ends the year atop World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series standings. It is worthy to note that these standings are competition points driven and not the points exchange system used in the Test arena. New Zealand and Samoa have not yet competed in the 2022 sevens season.
Springbok rugby 2021 presented fans with a real fruit cocktail of results, controversies, and a multitude of talking points.
On behalf of the contributors, senior staff, and Last Word on Sports network and Administration, thank you all so much and all the very best in 2022.
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