2015 is set to be a huge year for rugby with the World Cup just months away, here are my nine predictions for what this year has to offer…
1.Ireland to claim the Grand Slam
Ireland are looking like the stand-out team in the Northern Hemisphere right now and I expect this to continue into the Six Nations this year where I believe they will completely dominate. Short of England or Wales finding some serious form and quickly it’s hard to see any of the other Six Nations sides beating Ireland this year.
2.Crusaders to dominate Super Rugby
With Dan Carter leaving for France after the World Cup and Richie McCaw looking likely to move on as well I fully expect the Crusaders to go all out in Super Rugby this year. All of their players will be desperate to have a big season ahead of the World Cup and many will be hoping to atone for last years final loss to the Waratahs.
3.Toulon retain European Cup
Despite a slightly shaky start to the 2014/15 season Toulon now look to be back to their best and they will be fully expecting to retain their European crown in 2015. With their incredible strength in depth and experience of the double they are looking pretty ominous and must therefore be considered prime candidates for the title.
4.England knocked out of World Cup in quarters
As much as it pains me to make this prediction, something is telling me that England are going to struggle to even get out of their World Cup group this year. I think a runners up place in the group stages is plausible before being knocked-out by the Springboks. I desperately hope I’m wrong on this one but I think England fans need to be realistic about our chances.
5.France to win World Cup
Probably the boldest prediction on this list as it goes completely against any kind of form book, however the French seem to have an uncanny ability to pull it out of the bag exactly when it counts. Their run to the World Cup final in 2011 completely denied logic and I think they might just go one better in 2015 having shown brief glimpses of their ability during the 2014 Autumn Internationals.
6.Glasgow claim maiden Pro12 title
Glasgow were excellent last season in their run to the Pro12 final, however were beaten by a more experienced and clinical Leinster side. I believe that another year down the line with that experience in the bag they can kick on and claim their first title. This can really be their year with the improving form of Scottish rugby and the Irish provinces struggling slightly.
7.Northampton retain Premiership title
I can see a Premiership final between Bath and Northampton looming in 2015, however I believe Northampton’s experience will once again win out against an ever improving Bath side. They have shown on numerous occasions this season that they are capable of winning ugly, but are also happy to turn on the style when the occasion allows for it.
8.Johnny Sexton to be crowned World Player of the Year
With Ireland’s improving fortunes, and Sexton’s move back to Leinster later this year I believe that the Irish fly half could well find himself crowned World Rugby Player of the Year. He may still have a few weaknesses in his game but as he demonstrated against the Springboks at the end of 2014, when he gets it right he can be absolutely key to his sides hopes.
9.The Wallabies to find themselves in disarray
There Wallabies and ARU had enough troubles as it is in 2014, but I fully expect all the tensions bubbling under the surface to fully manifest themselves in 2015 and cause huge rifts in the national game. It looks like many of their star players are set to leave for Europe and Japan after the World Cup whilst the continued squeeze on the amateur game in Australia will bite the ARU on their arse.
What predictions are you making for 2015?