2015 – The Rugby Year that was

2015 – The Rugby Year that was

There are more than a few – like my good mate Brian Moore –  who are claiming 2015 as the greatest rugby year so far. I think they might be right.

The World Cup

From a global perspective we had the most successful Rugby World Cup to date. I don’t just judge that by the numbers – 2.4 million people attending with stadiums 95% full, 120 million watching the final on TV – but by the quality and justice within the rugby.

Quality because we saw ‘minnows’ produce excellence, with teams like Japan and Georgia re-setting expectations. Justice, because teams like England and Wales, who chose limited or even negative approaches, went by the wayside.

We saw teams like Argentina  – who have undergone the most mind-blowing skills transition in the past 12 months – deservedly exhilarate their way as the top of the tree. At the same time at the top of the tree we saw a resurgence in set piece skill – it wasn’t all just touch footy.

The Wallabies

Speaking of that top of the tree, how do you like this graph?


It tells some wonderful tales (including the All Blacks getting even stronger, dammit) but the one that should stick out like dogs balls is the resurgence of the Wallabies. In March Australia was languishing at 6th in the world, behind England, Wales and Ireland. Not even twelve months later we are now back to second. Along they way they picked up The Rugby Championship and runners up at the World Cup.

moore TRC cup

Photo by Keith McInnes

It wasn’t just the results, but the manner of them as well;  attacking rugby with lashings of defensive guts and a strong dash of scrummaging pride. Each element played its part in pulling off wins through the year that previously could well have slipped away. In 2015 the Wallabies played 12 and won 10, on average outscoring their opposition four tries to two. The two losses in the year came against New Zealand.

By any measure this has been an astounding year for Cheika’s Wallabies. At present, Michael Cheika’s coaching win rate of 68% is the second highest of any coach of the Wallabies in the professional era. Behind that success rate is a calibre of coaching staff and team ethos that the Wallabies haven’t seen for many moons, if ever.

The big questions for 2016

Can they not only keep it up, but step it up? Proving to the world you’re no mugs on the greatest rugby stage is the best motivation there is. What about when you don’t have that?

McCaw and Carter being gone open a chink in New Zealand’s armour and give a sniff of the Bledisloe. Along the way Eddie Jones will have four shots with his new look Poms. What can the Wallabies achieve?

Super Rugby


On the one hand we had two teams – the Brumbies and the Waratahs – make the semis. On the other hand the Reds and Force hit the bottom of the table and the Rebels were bottom half. The Force dwelling in the cellar isn’t news, but the performance implosion at the Reds is a tragedy that looks to play on in 2016.

The big questions for 2016

On the performance side the question will be who can mount a serious challenge outside of the Brumbies.  The Waratahs have lost a bucket load of players, not to mention a head coach. It’d take a brave punter to back any of the remaining three.

More perplexing will be the financials. The Force and Rebels are noted basket cases (is there a new shirt sponsor for the latter yet?), the Tahs and Brumbies are both looking over the precipice. Will 2016 be when the numbers come crashing down?

The rest of the union

Photo credit: QRU/Sportography

Photo credit: QRU/Sportography

The new formats show good signs of life as the NRC continues to take root and Viva7s has generated some energy. The news is not nearly so rosy from Club and Subbies land where divisions and teams continue to vaporise. Perhaps we’re in some sort of transition, but it’s hard to see how a thriving NRC and Viva7s replaces the core of the game.

The big questions for 2016

Bill Pulver got more than he’d originally hoped for in the re-negotiated TV rights, but even this bonanza could very quickly disappear with the needs of the Super Rugby teams alone. The grass roots of the game have been working on a promise for a number of years – now the ship has come in, how much of the bounty will they see? The ARU has form for finding ways to funding anything but the core – will it be more of the same?

Green and Gold Rugby

2015 was our best year ever – more than 841,000 rugby fans came through our website doors and played our podcasts more than 85,000 times. We had our most read article ever in Scrum analysis: the England vs Wales cheatfest. Together with some other like minded souls, I like to think we had some impact on creating the image below (I’m told the England coaching staff thought the ARU must have put us up to it).

There are so many who should be thanked  – those who wrote, moderated, photographed, organised and wanged-on. Thank you all, you know who you are. And thank you for reading, commenting and sharing.  You make the place what it is.

The big questions for 2016

Can we continue to hold out from the mega-money offers that news, publishing and sporting corporations who see the unique value in the authentic engagement G&GR provides with the rugby fanbase? It’s a safe bet.

Here’s to a great 2016 for all those who love rugby.


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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