Is the season over yet? It appears to be fizzling out a little without building to a thrilling crescendo. This time last year we were all a quiver with excitement about the Lions Tour, but interest levels in rugby appear to be fairly low at the moment.
Perhaps it’s just me, but the Heineken Cup final between Toulouse and Biarritz reflected this sentiment. It promised a lot, given Toulouse’s outstanding form throughout their European campaign, but it never really got going as a spectacle, and was dominated by penalty kicks – and most of those resulted from Toulouse’s dominance in the scrum.
In the Guinness Premiership, we’ve been denied the Leicester v Northampton showdown that was looking so likely, but no doubt Saracens fans will not be as disappointed as I am. Hopefully we’ll get a spectacle that better matches the occasion – the sunshine, colour and fanfare in Paris deserved a better game than we saw, but perhaps Twickenham can light things up again.
There was a lot of rugby being played at the weekend, which should have given us something to cheer about – the Amlin Challenge Cup final was a little more exciting than the main event as Cardiff beat Toulon to give Wales its first ever European trophy, but I’d backed Toulon to win; the two Super 14 semi-finals were won by the favourites to set up an all-South African final; and the Aussies won the IRB London Sevens, and any Australian victory is always disappointing!
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m looking forward to the end of the season. The summer tours will be interesting with the addition of the midweek games, but I don’t hold much hope for England’s prospects. The gulf in class between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres has been particularly apparent to me this season, and I have a feeling it will be experienced at first hand by the home nations.
Nevertheless, despite my slightly melancholic view, I’m already excited about next season – it’s pretty much two seasons rolled into one, because of the World Cup, and I’m looking forward to starting the build up to New Zealand 2011 from September when the domestic leagues begin again.
The World Cup adds that extra level of intrigue as the backdrop to every game, in the same way that the Lions Tour was always in the mind last year. The thought of it is already lifting my spirits, and no doubt the Football World Cup this summer will remind us what a great game rugby can be.