Rugby Predictions 2014

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2014 is set to be a huge year in rugby, although sadly not necessarily for all the right reasons. While things behind the scenes (in the European game at least) seem as murky as ever, here are some predictions for matters on the pitch this year – what do you make of them?

Six Nations 2014
Winner: England
Runner-up: Wales
Wooden Spoon: Italy

The Six Nations is always difficult to predict (just look at last year’s finishing table), and this year is no different. England and Wales will go in as favourites, and it could well be the game between them that decides it again, and with that falling at Twickenham this year, I’m backing England to avenge last year’s savaging in Cardiff and take the title. Of course there’s always the chance the French will decide to show up and spoil the party, but the way they’re going under PSA, that seems unlikely.

Heineken Cup
Winner: Leinster
Runner-up: Toulon

While the French sides have looked good this year, I think Leinster will reclaim Europe’s ultimate prize, possibly for the last time. They may have lost at home to Northampton, but the performance the week before at Franklin’s Gardens was so awesomely impressive that, if they can reproduce it in the knockout stages, no-one will be able to live with them.

Aviva Premiership
Winner: Northampton Saints
Runner-up: Saracens
Relegated: Worcester Warriors

The top two are creating a stranglehold at the summit of the Premiership, and while the Tigers will produce their usual end of season surge, injuries to key players could see them miss out on the final for the first time in ten years. The Saints, when they turn it on, have been the best team in the league this year.

RaboDirect Pro12
Winner: Munster
Runner-up: Ulster

Munster are sweeping all before them in the PRO12, with just one game lost this season. Ulster sit just outside the play-off spots at the moment, but I fancy them to make the top two and eventually make the final.

Top 14
Winner: Clermont Auvergne
Runner-up: Toulouse

Clermont have looked imperious in the French national competition this season, and with their home run of wins not looking like coming to an end any time soon, it’s hard to look past them for the title, despite their voodoo in knockout rugby. Toulouse have looked good in fits and spurts this season, but a strong second half of the season could see them make it to the final this year.

Super Rugby
Winner: Crusaders
Runner-up: Sharks

The Crusaders are always at the right end of the table come the end of the season, and having not gone on to win it since 2008, this could be the year they reclaim the top prize in Southern Hemisphere club rugby. The Sharks, under the new direction of John Smit and Jake White, should provide stern competition.

The Rugby Championship
Winner: New Zealand
Runner-up: South Africa

A New Zealand-South Africa two way battle for the 2014 Rugby Championship seems like a bit of a no-brainer at the moment, but a year is a long time in rugby and who knows where Australia will be come the end of the summer? For now, though, it seems likely to be between those two, and it is impossible to look past the All Blacks the way they are playing at the moment.

What do you think? Share your predictions in the comments below!

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

25 thoughts on “Rugby Predictions 2014

  1. France have won the Five/Six Nations the year after the last 4 Lions tours (98, 02, 06 and 2010). Will that hoodoo finally be broken?

  2. My heart says Wales will win the 6 Nations, but I do think that the fact the potential deciding match is at Twickenham rather than in Cardiff will have a huge impact in the result.

    It will also depend on how the new scrummage rules are referred on the day. A big forwards battle will be exciting to watch and both sets of backs are world class.

    Will be an awesome match and closer than last years 30-3 I fear (for Wales)…

    Let’s not forget how well Ireland played against NZ in the autumn internationals and betting against France is always a risk.

    Scottish wooden spoon I’m afraid…

    Cymru am byth!!!

  3. Wales to win the six nations… although they haven’t beaten a southern hemisphere team like England have they always up their game against England to unbelievable levels… But I think them winning depends on whether or not All their key players stay fit and whether J. davies is ready to play.

  4. Wales for six nations and a battle between Ireland and England for second place. I can’t see France turning up this year (maybe 2015 will be different) but Ireland’s inconsistent class could mean upsets – especially against a consistently uninspiring English side.

    Italy for wooden spoon, but that depends on whether Scotland’s experimenting and bizarre selection decisions have ended yet.

    Reversed top-two for Pro12 and Aviva Premiership. Money’s on Ulster for a dominant second half of the season and for Nothampton to choke at just the wrong moment.

  5. Wales have the advantage of 3 homes games this year and faced with Ireland and England away may well only need to win one of these to retain the championship. (Three years running!!)

    England have France, Scotland and Italy as away games in 2014 so this is not an easy task to complete. There again Wales did exactly that last year after losing 8 games on the bounce so who knows?

    Never underestimate the French, yes they can be awful and they can also be inspiring and they benefit from the knock-on effect of a Lions tour. This cannot be forgotten for Ireland, Wales or England. Look at England’s current injury list and see how many were Lions in 2013.

    1. England beat all three of those away in 2012 when we were a much worse team. Obviously that’s no guarantee at all of the results being repeated, and Italy are much stronger now, but I don’t see our 3-away-game years as being noticeably harder than having Ireland and Wales away, neither of which have been great fixtures for us over the last 10 years.

  6. Where’s Blighty? Thought he’d be defending Wales’ corner? Probably an Xmas creep over (i.e. a slow hang over which gradually gets worse).

    Regds the 6N, for me it’s often been a bit of the luck of the draw thing; i.e. if a team has 1 or 2 toughies @ home, it gives them an advantage for sure. However, poss England to take it due to Wales @ home, but the Paddies may upset the applecart as they nearly did the ABs. However, 1 swallow doesn’t usually make a summer & they’ve got it to prove as to whether the Oz or AB game was their marker. And as anothger said about not writing the French off. Dunno. Should win it most often, but I think their coaches inhibit them. Always have… but, never say never. Scots, alas, can’t score, won’t score? Italy, unfotunately likely wodden sponners? E, W, Fr, Ire, Sc, It.

    Can’t quite see Leinster winning the H Cup. Maybe, but a French side more likely I think.

    And N’thampton in the premiership? Don’t see that either. Too limited in attack. Sarries (£), or alas, possibly Leicester… with their spot the non internationls £ team.

    Agree Rabo likely winner Munster with Top 14, Clermont.

    As for S15, what about Waikato? I mean they only won the last 2, so don’t pick them to go close again? Too much NY fongi imbibed by the author perhaps?

    1. Most of those points are fair, but you can’t call Saints too limited in attack – they’ve scored 34 tries this season (one less than Sarries who lead the way) and last weekend scored 6 against the team immediately below them in the table. They’ve got the Pisi brothers, North, Fotuali’i, Burrell, Manoa… huge try-scoring firepower there.

      Chiefs will be there or thereabouts in the S15, but to win it 3 times in a row would be an unbelievable achievement, so I’ve gone for Crusaders this time – the reality is, though, that it is another one that’s impossible to pick right now. Oh, the Chiefs will miss Craig Clarke’s leadership as well. So underrated as a player.

  7. Can’t see beyond Wales for 6N. Very settled squad. Not too many injuries. 2nd place to the winner of the England Ireland game. Depends which Ireland turn up! France to 4th with some improved performances – they couldn’t get worse and then Scotland followed by Italy for WS as they are looking poor at present.

    Think Sarries for the AP, but then I tipped them for the HC so what do I know!

  8. I really fancy Ireland for a strong showing in 6 nations. With 3 provinces strong and genuine replacements coming through, not to mention one of the best coaches in the business they’re in a good place.

  9. I think Wales will be 3rd at best this year. It was clear from the Christmas derbies, despite the passion and excitement on offer, that the off field meltdown is starting to have it’s effect on the players minds. I don’t think we’ll be focused enough to win the tough matches this year.

    Toulon for the HC for me. I fear Leinster might be the new Ireland – amazing individual matches, curiously subdued follow ups.

    Saracens to win the AP. Squad depth and less impact from 6Ns call ups will see them through. Worcester relegated.

    Welsh rugby could well properly collapse this year. Depressing times for some of us, lots of laughs no doubt for others (judging by Twitter).

    1. I’m not so sure of the impact regional rugby has on your national side… Wales have had their 6N successes despite pretty average (at best) showings from the regions in the HC. The polar opposite of Ireland province success compared to their national side.

      I do think the away fixtures will be tricky for Wales, though – England will be hungry for revenge after that unceremonious mauling last March (I hope, anyway – if we don’t have that passion then we may as well give up), and I get the feeling Ireland will want to prove a point collectively for BOD being dropped from the Lions (which I happen to think was the right choice, irrelevant as that is).

      1. Geat – I think that the performance of our regions is different to the current mess. Some of us think that poor regional performance is the price we’ve paid for national success. Our focus, unlike say the English clubs, is that Wales be the best international team in the world (yeah, we’ve not achieved that, but that doesn’t mean it is not our goal). So we limit player matches, we pull players out of regions for national training, etc.

        The problem now is that when we can no longer keep those players at the regions we lose one aspect of our success – look what’s happened to Lydiate this year, Gethin before him, etc. We can no longer manage those players to be optimal for national team so they suffer. The problem is only going to get worse.

        I think England will be a tricky match but I don’t buy into the revenge aspect. England were supposedly out for revenge last year due to the wins from the previous two years, both of those contentious in their own way. England didn’t seem to be able to use any of that perceived injustice/ignominy when they played us last year so I do not see it as being a significant factor this year – it will be cancelled out, if it does exist, by Wales desire to make history. I just think England will beat us because it’s a) away b) we’re without key players c) the WRU mess is ruining preparation.

        1. I’m not sure there was much of a revenge factor going into the 2013 match? We won in 2010 and 2011 (twice, one of those a RWC warmup), Wales won the other 2011 warmup and in 2012. Our confidence was clearly on the wane ever since the Scotland game, and that shambles of an Italy game (which we could, and perhaps should, have lost) really sapped any we had left. I’m confident that if we’d won against the Azurri by a decent margin (e.g. 20+) we may not have beaten Wales, but we would have done enough to win the title.

          If England can’t use a record loss to Wales as motivation, then we’re in trouble.

          1. Geat,
            I have just been thinking about England’s attacking game after watching the sarries game where they managed to play a perfectly good offloading game with farrell and barritt.
            If the coaches at England aren’t encouraging that and are obsessed with the bosh it up the middle game, then why don’t we just go back to the way Johnno played the game with tindall tuilagi banahan etc. Obviously not tindall but you see my point. If we are determined to play crap rugby smashing straight forward, why not pick massive people crashing straight forward than:
            Joseph, wade, may, nowell, ashton, eastmond
            A few of whom who have already been victims of the poor gameplan.

            because asking these guys to play a boshing gameplan is just going to ruin them.

            now ideally for me England would play like exeter but with Andy Farrell in the coaching set up I’m just not seeing it.

            I don’t want England to play the backs like they have been, but if they are determined to why not just pick Banahan and co, at least it will leave nowell may and wade to play exciting rugby in the premiership

    2. Brighty what has happened to your eternal optimisum? Can’t believe you genuinely think Wales will finish 3rd has someone hacked your account?

      Would love to say Eng to win but we have already lost pretty much all our attacking flair so will have to rely on our pack to win and not sure that will be enough. Also can’t help feel that France are long overdue a good run of games and if they beat us in the first game can easily see them going on to win!

      I think the playoffs in the AP are a bit of a farse to be honest! Appreciate they are there to make money and give fans more to watch but if things carry on the way they do Sarries and Saints could easily be 10 points clear of eveyone else but not win which makes no sense?

      If Sarries can pull off an away win at Toulouse then feel they are in with a great shout at the title!

      Think that Aus really sorted themselves out after the Eng game and expect them to push SA hard in the RC.

      1. I’ve finally lost it Ben. Seeing Welsh rugby staring into the abyss and doing sod all about it has finally convinced me that we’re about to enter another 80s/90s period of total failure.

    3. With regards to sarries winning due to six nations call ups (or being less affected by it), I am convinced that they will top the league on points at the end of the season. But I do think Northampton could beat them in a 1 off game.

  10. 6N – no grand slam for anyone
    1) Ireland
    2) England
    3) Wales
    4) France
    5) Scotland
    6) Italy

    England will remain really hard to beat, but lack of cutting edge means we won’t score enough points to win all our games and if teams are level on number of wins we won’t take it on points difference. I can’t see how the Welsh domestic turmoil can have no impact on the performance of the national team, with an ‘easy’ game first up there is the chance they could get on a roll. Ireland look the best all round side to me, but probably not consistent enough to get a GS this year.

  11. Jamie

    We’ll see regds N’hampton, but been there b4 only 2 blow up. Not totally convinced about Mallinder.

  12. The result of the 6 nations depends very heavily on selection.

    France with good selection will always be dangerous especially with the form bastareud is coming into.
    England with good selection (Burrell and Nowell for starters) could add another tack to their game and if they can get a good backline they will be very difficult to beat.
    Wales need to consider the same arguments they have every single year about their back row and their centres (sounds like every team really)
    Scotland haven’t a hope so might as well select Henri Bergson
    Italy need to work out whether they are trying to set an impassable world record for caps in the pack or trying to get better.
    Ireland need to select someone who can remind them that every game matters not just the ones where everyone is expecting them to lose (ABs 13, AUS 11)

    However, im going for England. (please pick Burrell and Nowell bomber)

  13. Agree with England winning the six nations. Would love to see Leinster win the Heineken but alas I dont think they will. So will go for Clermont. The Pro 12 will be Ulsters. The Top 14, an outside bet, Stade Francaise. They winnin away from home which is unusual for a French team. The Premiership, Leicester. Championship, NZ (who else) and dont know enough to call the Super Rugby champs but would pick an outsider for a change!

  14. grundy & ro

    Of the potential threats, England have Ireland & Wales @ home & only France away, so in theory it could make their task ‘easier’ to win the 6N.

    Wales on the other hand have 2 of their harder games away, as do Ireland.

    However France have their likely hardest game at home (v England 1st up). If they can win that, then they could be hard to shift.

    So it looks like England or France could decide the comp in the 1st round. However, it doesn’t always work out like that & for me, the coaches of both teams inhibit their players with a lack of all an round game, i.e. their inability to construct tries.

    The term, ‘with good selection’, in England’s case, Thus seems a contradiction. If England continue to crab E to W with mid field cloggers who can’t straighten their attack & try to run over the top of or through people, then shuffling deck chairs could make it another long day at the office (like v Italy, SA, Oz & Wales last yr).

    IMO France should concentrate on winning the breakdown & running the ball at every (or most) opportunity. It’s what they’re traditionally best at methinks & it seems more natural to them than most teams. However there’s St. Andre there for them whose likely to eff it up for them.

    So, likely England… but perhaps only if they beat France 1st.

    Also, maybe Joe Schmidt may spring a surprise or 2… depending if Ireland can repeat the AB perforamnce rather thgat that v O

  15. Oops, dunno what happened there…?

    c’t’nued… depending on whether Ireland can repeat the AB performance rather that that v Oz. Do they have the confidence & belief? We’ll see.

    In any event, the whole tourney is only relevant to an extent as all the teams don’t play each other on a H & A basis (as per the SH Ch’ship). It may not be practicable to implement the aforemantioned, but it would be a better yardstick to see where teams really stand (esp with 2015 looming).

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