2012 will live long in the memory for any sports fan but 2013 is shaping up to be the year that rugby takes over proceedings, with an array of domestic and international competitions being staged around the world.
To help you start planning your 2013 and make sure you are all kitted out for the big events, here at Lovell Rugby we have compiled a calendar of the highlights of the year ahead so that you have plenty of time to prepare and not miss out on the biggest rugby matches over the next twelve months.
Wales may be defending Six Nations champions but after several poor performances during the autumn series of test matches, England have now emerged as the strongest threat to their crown and impressed hugely with their historic victory against New Zealand. Ireland and France will naturally provide formidable opposition, especially on home soil, whilst Scotland and Italy will be looking to improve upon their 2012 campaigns, particularly the Scottish who will not want another wooden spoon title.
This year of course there will be the added pressure and incentive of performing under the watchful eyes of the British and Irish Lions coaches. Although there will still be time to impress on the domestic scene, this will be the final chance to stand out on the international stage and really stake a claim for a place on the touring party.
Ireland are undoubtedly the dominant force when it comes to European domestic rugby, with five of the last seven titles heading back across the Irish Sea. Munster and Leinster have shared the honours, although it will be the latter looking to claim their third consecutive title on home soil in Dublin this season. With Harlequins, Clermont Auvergne and Toulon the only sides to maintain a 100% record so far in the group stages, the competition is certainly wide open and far from a formality for the reigning champions.
They say it is harder to retain your title than win it in the first place but Harlequins will certainly be looking to prove any doubters wrong. Chris Robshaw and his Harlequins team-mates topped the table at the end of the 2011-12 season and then went on to claim the Aviva Premiership title for the first time in their history.
The 2012-13 season is already proving to be hotly contested as the usual contenders, comprising of Saracens and Leicester Tigers, are giving chase to Harlequins whilst the likes of Northampton Saints, Gloucester Rugby and London Wasps are also in the mix. With over half the season played, expect to see plenty of action for the remaining matches as every team fights for vital points at both ends of the table.
The British & Irish Lions Tour comes only once every four years and for many is deemed more prestigious than the Rugby World Cup itself. The finest from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland unite as one team, with this year marking their 125th anniversary.
The 2013 Tour of Australia will see the British & Irish Lions return to the scene of their inaugural tour back in 1888, looking to avenge their 2001 series loss and claim their first series win since South Africa in 1997. If there is even a touch of the dramatic scenes when Jeremy Guscott’s famous drop goal clinched the series against the World Champions, then this tour will truly be one to remember and fans will roar with pride at history in the making.
Only starting life in 1993, the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow will also be the last, as from 2016 it will form part of the Olympic cycle every four years. The first winners of the competition were England and since then Fiji have also claimed two titles whilst New Zealand also added their name to the trophy. The most surprising victors though have been Wales, who come into this years competition as reigning champions from 2009 having battled their way past the traditional powerhouses of Sevens rugby to claim the title. It would take a brave person to bet against the All Blacks though as they aim to continue their Sevens World Series supremacy by adding a further title.
They breed them tough up north and statistically Wigan and St Helens have previously been the dominant force in rugby league. Since 2006 though it has been the Leeds Rhinos who have been the team to beat in the Super League format, having claimed six titles including the last two consecutive years. Even after a tough league season, the top eight teams then continue on towards the Grand Final where the ultimate champions are crowned.
2013 is the year for rugby league to shine as the Super League Grand Final leads perfectly into the Rugby League World Cup starting later in the month.
Sport is full of surprises but hardly anyone could have envisioned what took place at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Taking place in Australia, the hosts were the reigning champions and had also claimed nine titles from the twelve previous competitions. In most peoples eyes, every other nation were just there to make up number and competing for the runners-up position at best. New Zealand had other ideas and defeated the hosts on their own turf and in front of their own fans, ending their run of five consecutive titles.
Australia will have been plotting their revenge for five long years and kick off this campaign with a tough encounter against England at the Millennium Stadium on October 26th. Staged across England, Wales, Ireland and France, fourteen nations will come down to two for the final taking place at Old Trafford.
It may be two years away still but the countdown to the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England is well and truly on. Now that the draw has taken place for the group matches, each nation will be meticulously planning the downfall of their opponents and plotting success on the world’s biggest rugby stage. How will New Zealand cope with the pressure of being reigning champions and favourites and will a northern hemisphere nation break the dominance of their southern hemishere counterparts and hold aloft the Webb Ellis trophy.
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