Prediction time for 2010
January 1, 2010
What does 2010 hold for the disenchanted Gavin Henson, London Irish boss Toby Booth, Wales youngster Dan Biggar and the newly-knighted Sir Ian McGeecan?
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The New Year is upon us so it is time for us to dust off the crystal ball and make some bold predictions for the next 12 months.
Regular readers of ESPNscrum may recall our not-so-prophetic feature from this time last year that did at least predict success for Cardiff Blues, rugby's return to the Olympic family, ELVs-related carnage and a superb Lions tour for Welshman Stephen Jones.
Undeterred by our hit-and-miss record we offer our picks for 2010 - and Happy New Year from everyone at ESPNscrum.com.
England silence their critics with Six Nations title
Martin Johnson delights in ramming his critics' words back down their own throats as his side impress on their way to the northern hemisphere crown. With a fresh and fit squad the England boss finally gets his side firing on all cylinders - claiming the title against France in Paris. His critics respond by accusing England of playing with too much flair and condemn them for not keeping it simple. The snipers are rewarded when England are taught a lesson or two on their tour to Australia.
Interest in Anglo-Welsh Cup hits all time low
The beleaguered and much put upon Anglo-Welsh Cup suffers a further blow to its reputation when Saracens and the Dragons completely forget about their pool clash. The oversight only comes to light when Sarries boss Brendan Venter and his Dragons counterpart Paul Turner bump into each other while out shopping with their respective wives on the afternoon of the game. Further embarrassment for tournament organisers follows when Cardiff Blues admit to misplacing the trophy. It is eventually found being used as a helmet by the Bristol arm of the English Civil War Re-enactment Society.
McGeechan agrees to roar once more
The newly-knighted Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan bows to pressure form 'er indoors and agrees to get out from under her feet. The decision is welcomed with open arms by the Six Nations Committee who promptly appoint Geech as tour manager for the trip to Australia in 2013.
Henson rediscovers his passion for the game
Inspired by his team-mate Jerry Collins' rugby odyssey and by the exploits of stand-up comedian-cum-marathon man Eddie Izzard, Gavin Henson decides to return from the wilderness in a bid to rediscover his love of the game and at the same time raise money for charity. The perma-tanned talisman embarks on a nationwide tour, lacing up his boots and turning out at a series of grassroots clubs who in turn promise to dig deep for Sport Relief. The end result is a rejuvenated Henson ready to rescue his international career in time for Rugby World Cup 2011.
All Blacks reclaim Tri-Nations title
New Zealand reclaim the southern hemisphere crown with a series of dazzling displays. Fly-half Dan Carter and captain Richie McCaw are once again the heartbeat of the side with Zac Guildford finishing the series as top try scorer. The emphatic manner of their latest success lifts hopes that they will end their Rugby World Cup drought in 2011 and also helps shift a few more tickets for the sport's next global showpiece.
Sky Sports push the envelope
The pioneering broadcasters raise the bar again with the latest in a long line of innovations. Inspired by the success of director James Cameron's ground-breaking epic Avatar, the powers that be at Sky embrace the latest 3D technology in their sports production and issue all subscribers with a pair of glasses with which to watch their coverage. However, to ensure optimum clarity, everyone on the pitch needs to be painted blue prior to kick off in a move that sparks anger from sponsors and confusion among players in equal measure.
Player speaks his mind shock
Premier Rugby initiate a 'free speech' policy granting players the right to speak their own mind and not from a list of answers prepared for them. The result is a week of stunned silence and empty column inches before the players find their collective voice and breathe life into the coverage of their sport.
The worm that turned
Referees become the stars of the show with a no-nonsense approach to officiating that not only cleans up the game but when aligned with a coaching focus on winning games and not losing them sparks a new glorious period in the sport's history.
Biggar, faster, stronger
Welsh fly-half Dan Biggar continues his meteoric climb to the top of the game with a refreshing commitment to running rugby combined with a superb handling and kicking game. Wales boss Warren Gatland sings his praises ahead of the Six Nations and by the end of the year the rest of the world are applauding the youngster.
Hollywood falls in love with rugby
The success of Hollywood's treatment of the Springboks' success at the 1995 Rugby World Cup spawns a host of rugby-related movies. First into production is a re-telling of England's dominance of the European stage in the early 1990s and specifically the life of Will Carling. 'Carling the Cad' stars Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role and Scarlett Johansson as Princess Diana. Coming soon - Dingo Deans - The Musical starring Hugh Jackman.
Irish eyes are smiling again
London Irish erase the memories of their narrow defeat in the 2009 Guinness Premiership Final with victory over London Wasps in a thrilling finale this term. There is more joy for Irish rugby fans as Leinster edge out Ospreys to claim the Magners League crown.
Pretty in pink
European Rugby Cup officials reveal that the early sell-out of the 2010 Heineken Cup Final at the Stade de France in Paris was largely due to deep-pocketed Stade Francais president Max Guazzini 'snapping up' the last 40,000 seats in anticipation of his side reaching the European showpiece. His side duly make their date with destiny and Guazzini rewards the team's fans with a free ticket. Stade beat Top 14 rivals Toulouse in an all-French final to exact revenge for their 2005 defeat at the same stage of the competition.