What better way to kick off the year than to look ahead to a superb 12 months of Rugby and throw out some predictions to be debated – what do you think of these?
Wooden Spoon: Italy
The fact that England play France at Twickenham swings it for me, but I’m not expecting a Grand Slam for anyone. Apart from Scotland and Italy, anyone can beat anyone else on their day, and it should make for an excellent tournament.
Runner-up: Clermont Auvergne
These two French sides have been hugely impressive so far, with Clermont making a mockery of their pool of death and Toulon’s dream team also remain unbeaten, albeit in an easier group.
Runner-up: Leicester Tigers
Relegated: Sale Sharks
I can see a repeat of last year’s final and the same result – Quins have shown some real mettle in winning tough away games and making The Stoop a tough place to play. Sale’s rudderless ship is likely to cost them if they don’t sort themselves out soon.
Last year’s champions are moving ominously up the table after a dreadful start, but I fancy Ulster to top the table at the end of the season and go on to win the final.
Winner: British and Irish Lions (2-1)
A victory is essential after three unsuccessful tours and if Wales and Ireland can rekindle some of their RWC form, the player pool for Warren Gatland to choose from has talent in abundance.
Having won the Currie Cup and some long-awaited silverware, the Stormers may finally have shaken the ‘chokers’ tag, giving them the confidence to land the big one.
The Rugby Championship
Winner: New Zealand
Runner-up: South Africa
It’s always difficult to predict anything but an All Blacks win, despite their thrashing at Twickenham in December. A fresh, post-sabbatical Richie McCaw will be available again, and Australia – the most likely to beat them – will be less of a threat to them after a tough Lions series.
What do you think? Share your predictions in the comments below!
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images