Seven things for rugby fans to be excited about in 2022

rugby 2022
 With COVID cancellations and postponements across different leagues, it feels important to be optimistic. Rugby has plenty of exciting attractions in 2022, both at the elite level, and emerging competitions. We preview seven rugby highlights to look forward to this year:

A final night decider in the 6 Nations?

After memorable performances from England, France, and Ireland in the Autumn Internationals, the 6 Nations is building plenty of excitement. The 2021 edition had plenty of drama and attacking intent, with an average of 5.73 tries per match. Hopefully, a similar standard continues for 2022.When you look at the fixture list, a potentially mouth-watering prospect awaits. England, France, and Ireland have the strongest form approaching the tournament. With the Irish facing daunting away trips to Twickenham and Paris, it’s the former two who will enter the tournament as favourites. And what is the last match of the tournament? France v England- 9pm at the Stade de France. Can you imagine if the title comes down to this final fixture? The atmosphere was incredible for France’s triumph over the All Blacks. How good would it be for a title decider?

A refreshed ‘Super Rugby’

Despite the typical departures, there’s a sizeable crop of superstars returning to Super Rugby. World class flankers Michael Hooper and Pablo Matera join the Waratahs and Crusaders respectively, with numerous All Blacks like Beauden Barrett returning from stints abroad.  Meanwhile, it will be really interesting to see how rugby league convert Roger Tuivasa-Sheck performs with the Blues. The Samoan has 20 New Zealand caps in rugby league, with an eye-catching blend of strength and side-steps.The streamlined format could also benefit the competition. Trying to understand the previous conference systems felt like doing a sudoku at times. It’s refreshing to see a straight-forward league with play-offs.Add to this the intrigue of how the new Pacific Island franchises will fare (Moana Pacifika and Fijian Drua), and it makes for a really interesting tournament.

World Cup Qualifiers

With France 2023 fast approaching, there will plenty of tension-filled qualifiers in 2022. The Rugby Europe championship only offers two automatic qualifying slots for the World Cup, based on accumulated results from 2021 and 2022. Georgia are favourites to take one slot, but only two league points separates Romania, Portugal, and Spain. This will make for hugely entertaining test matches, with all three nations producing some of their best form in the November Internationals.In the Americas, we could see a new nation qualify for the World Cup. If Chile can defeat USA in a two-leg series, they’ll become the first debutant nation at the World Cup since Russia in 2011. The South Americans defeated Canada and Russia in recent months with a creative, offloading brand of rugby. Hopefully World Rugby will stream these games on their YouTube channel, because it could be a historic moment for the underdog Chileans.

Gallagher Premiership Rugby in 2022

The turnaround of Leicester Tigers under Steve Borthwick has been quite something. They’ve pulled off numerous last-gasp escapes, and seeing if they can manage an undefeated season will be fascinating.But underneath the spotlight of the Gallagher Premiership has been one of the most competitive Championship seasons yet. With no Premiership side relegated due to COVID disruptions, the league is as tight as ever. Come September, one will be promoted to the Premiership.Championship clubs have faced continuous challenges in recent years. Whoever gets promoted, English rugby fans will have a Rocky-like story to get behind. Ealing Trailfinders are no doubt favourites, but Doncaster, Jersey, and Cornish Pirates remain in the mix.
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Women’s World Cup

2021’s Team of the Year, England Women, laid down a benchmark for the upcoming World Cup in New Zealand. The Black Ferns have only lost 12 matches in their entire history, with their biggest defeat of all time being just 12 points. England became the new team to beat, thrashing them twice in November. The balance of power has truly shifted.The concern for the upcoming World Cup is England will be too dominant. They have full-time professional contracts and superior player pathways to various nations.  However, France are emerging as serious competition, and the Black Ferns will be fighting to regain their prime position. It would make a compelling story if semi-professional New Zealand can knock mighty England off their perch on home soil.

All Blacks v Ireland Tour

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The Summer tests will include numerous three-match Test series. No doubt, the pick of the bunch will be Ireland looking to claim their first wins in New Zealand.The three-match Test series is a beautiful tradition in rugby. Arguably, the recent Lions series has left a bad taste in people’s mouths, but it’s rare to see a boring All Blacks game. After Ireland’s monumental triumph over New Zealand, various pundits and fans have questioned whether it can be backed up on Kiwi soil. If it’s anything like November’s legendary game in Dublin, we are in for a treat.

Pacific mega teams

The change in eligibility laws for test rugby was revolutionary. Allowing players to switch allegiance from one country to another could make test rugby far more competitive. Just look at what’s happened with Tonga in Rugby League, soaring to the World Cup semi-final in 2017, and currently third in the world rankings.Many fans have speculated about the new combinations we could see. In 2022, these rugby all-star sides could legitimately become a reality. The prospect of Charles Piutau for Tonga, Nathan Hughes for Fiji, or even Ma’a Nonu for Samoa makes the Pacific Islander tests a much greater spectacle.It’s rumoured that France are likely to face one of the Pacific Island nations in November. With these new star-studded line-ups, this could be an absolute classic.

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