We have already looked deep into the crystal ball for our 2018 rugby union predictions article. What though would we wish for if we had a genie instead of a crystal ball in the back room?
Here are our top five wishes for the 2018 rugby year:
Scotland wins the Six Nations
As a proud Englishman this one is not easy to admit, but the health of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere would be better off if Scotland wins the 2018 Six Nations.
Scotland is the only member of the original Five Nations participants to have not won the competition crown since Italy were added to the mix in 2000. Ironically, the Scots won the very last Five Nations title in 1999, but there have been many more bad than good years since then.
This though has all changed since Gregor Townsend took over as the Scottish head coach. The team is loaded with playmakers – such as Finn Russell and the exciting Stuart Hogg – and the way Townsend coaches his teams to play is maximizing the talent of those individuals.
England and Ireland are both very good – while Wales shouldn’t be discounted either – but if this progressive and entertaining Scotland team can win the Six Nations, it would be a massive boost for the sport.
England vs New Zealand is as advertised
Rugby union needs this match to deliver on the promise it holds. The November Tests this year were a dud, with New Zealand not taking on either England or Ireland on their tour. By the time they play it will have been four years since England and New Zealand last locked horns and this game could so easily be a preview of the 2019 World Cup final.
It has to be a classic. Both Steve Hansen and Eddie Jones must pick their best teams. Anything else would be a disservice to the fans and a disservice to the game we all love. The British lions tour this summer gave New Zealand an excuse to not take their best players to North at the end of the season. This wish dictates that we do not get a repeat of that touring party next year.
Fewer concussions marring the game
I am done with the concussion problems that are taking over rugby union.
There are too many for the game to sustain the rate at which players are going down. Whatever the solution to this issue is we need to find it quickly before stars are put on the shelf forever because of repeated impacts to the head. It will be interesting to see if anything in the revises law book – or in the expected law trials – is aimed at addressing this issue.
For rugby union to be at its most enjoyable, all the best players need to be on the pitch.
An Australian team wins the Super Rugby title
It just feels like Australian rugby needs this. Of the three big nations in turmoil, it can be argued that Australia fared the worst in 2017. France may have a miserable international team, but their domestic league is the envy of most of the world. South Africa were poor as a nation in 2017, but the Lions were in the Super Rugby final and put together a dominant year.
Australia has nothing going for them.
Protracted legals battles with clubs. Mystifyingly inconsistent international play. Potential stars being arrested for drug possession. All bad things.
It doesn’t even really matter which Australian Super Rugby franchise steps up – and ironically the union kicked out the form team at the back end of 2017 that was the Western Force – but Australia needs one of their franchises to step up against a backdrop of waning interest in the sport at every level.
A Six Nations reboot is revealed
Of all the wishes here this is the most important, and the most needed.
The way rugby union is structured means that countries just cannot progress beyond their given Tier level. It is not right that a union that puts in the work to improve – with Georgia being the obvious example here – yet finds their progression stopped dead because they aren’t invited to the table.
A Six Nations reboot would be ideal currently. It is not like Italy are playing at a world beating level and would crush those Tier 2 European nations. Frankly, they are replaceable. I don;t know if promotion and relegation is the answer or if a different system with multiple groups should be implemented.
Basically though, something needs to change if we want rugby to grow into a world game at the XVs level like it has with rugby sevens.
What would you most like to see happen in 2018? Let us know in the comments!
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