We are gearing up for the new season here on The Rugby Blog in which we’ll be going non-stop into the World Cup next year – Nick Heath takes a look at some of the highlights ahead.
“Hold on tight for a fast ride, scream if you wanna go faster!” Is it just me or have the last 3 years flown by? We are about to begin the 2010/11 season after which we segue straight into New Zealand’s World Cup next September, but it seems only yesterday I was watching Mathew Tait break the line in the Stade de France.
The benefit of how the calendar falls does however mean that we almost avoid that ‘night before’ apprehension. There’ll be little time to get anxious or pre-ponderous next Summer as once the new Aviva-sponsored Premiership gets underway on Sept 4th, we’ll have begun the journey.
On your left, the Aviva Premiership and Magners League – see how domestic and international stars shine and light up the field as spectator numbers continue to grow, whilst the Exeter Chiefs and a couple of Italian teams make a welcome appearance. Alongside it, the mild irritation of the LV=Cup and some of the other slightly poorer relations of the domestic rugby scene. Mind you, that all changes if you bring home the silverware.
Up front, the Heineken & Amlin Cups – our European cousins take centre stage as the English, Irish, Welsh, Scots, Italians, French and Romanians do battle across their fatherlands for supreme glory. Note to self: be careful not to follow football’s example of making club European comps bigger than the world. See this summer in South Africa.
On your right, the Autumn internationals – southern hemisphere sides stalking Europe like poachers, hoping to instill enough fear to cause internal melt down. In the context of the World Cup next year, this is bound to be telling. Only the strong will survive. Only Lewis Moody can relax.
Over the brow of New Year Hill arrives the RBS 6 Nations. Expect huge over-analysis pre World Cup, Brian Moore toys-from-pram and French protestation. Crucially though, plenty to enjoy in naughty weekends away, friendly pub rivalry quoting 500 years of religious invasions and Jerry Guscott getting gently plump enough to make James Corden look svelte.
March onward through bookies’ World-Cup-winner-odds-changing mayhem towards crownings of European and domestic champions, players of the season, teams of the year, continuous question marks over referee interpretation and honour of the game.
Arrive at June. Suitably pamper/butter-up partner to prepare for impending departure. Cue analysis of squad selection, pre-World Cup training camps and the odd warm-up game through July. And then…
Having sacrificed your forehead to Gullivers Travel advertising, arrive in New Zealand with jet lag, a thirst and every newspaper’s ‘special world cup supplement’ going and relax; for a day. Cue tension, upset, grace, beauty, joy, despair and wonder – Rugby World Cup 2011 will have kicked off.
Not long to go really…