Prediction time for 2009
Graham Jenkins
January 11, 2009
Wales coach Warren Gatland, Wales and Scarlets fly-half Stephen Jones, Glasgow and Scotland wing Thom Evans and IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset
Will these faces be celebrating in 2009? Wales coach Warren Gatland, Wales fly-half Stephen Jones, Scotland wing Thom Evans and IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset. © Getty Images

The dawning of a new year is not only a time for resolutions but also predictions so while considering how to counter the excesses of the festive period check out our picks for 2009.

A feast of rugby awaits over the next 12 months with the British & Irish Lions' tour to South Africa looming large as a major highlight but there will be much more for fans and journalists to get their teeth stuck into.

Here are some of the stories that we think you could see over the coming months - and a few light-hearted ones you probably won't.

Happy New Year from!

Wales storm to championship glory
Warren Gatland's side underline their position as the northern hemisphere's premier side with victory in the Six Nations. After shaking off their rust in a narrow victory over the Scots at Murrayfield, England are once again put to the sword in Cardiff. They are then edged out in a thriller against France under the Friday night lights in Paris before bouncing back with a big win in Rome against Italy. The Championship title is wrapped up with a vintage display against the Irish at the Millennium Stadium. Scotland surprise many, Ireland and France lack consistency, Italy take another step forward beating France, while a continually out of sorts England struggle to find their stride.

Exasperated Moore has enough of crooked feeds
Former England hooker and now BBC Sport analyst Brian Moore reaches breaking point on the subject of crooked feeds at scrum time. During Italy's Six Nations clash with Wales in Rome, Moore leaps from the Flaminio Stadium's commentary gantry - leaving co-commentator Eddie Butler perplexed - before racing across the pitch to berate Italian scrum-half Pietro Travagli for his shortcomings before turning his anger on referee Alan Lewis. The Pitbull is finally dragged away kicking and screaming by a combination of Jonathan Davies and Jerry Guscott.

Evans ignites Scotland's Championship campaign
A series of dazzling displays results in the exciting Scottish talent being the subject of the kind of screaming adulation he hasn't seen since strutting his stuff with boy-band Twen2y 4 se7en supporting the likes of McFly, Peter Andre and Westlife. Scotland coach Frank Hadden runs out of superlatives to describe the speedster as his try-scoring exploits - including a match-winner against England for whom he played at U21 level - catapult him into Lions contention.

Facial hair the key to Lions selection
In an exclusive investigation discovers that the key to selection for the Lions' tour to South Africa is impressive facial hair. Coach Ian McGeechan and tour manager Gerald Davies play down initial speculation but later admit to the world's leading rugby website that those sporting the most impressive sideburns, moustaches and goatees would be on the plane to SA. As a result we witness the first razor-free Six Nations as the northern hemisphere elite vie for a prestigious Lions berth. France and Italy join the 'competition', taking it as a challenge to their masculinity. The selection policy does not go down well with everyone with baby-faced England star Matthew Tait complaining, "It's not fair - nobody told me and it takes me weeks to grow a stubble!"

Jones kicks Lions to series triumph
He doesn't begin the tour as the first-choice fly-half, but the reliable Welshman Stephen Jones takes the Lions No.10 shirt for the series decider in Johannesburg as a result of injuries and a lack of form amongst his rivals. The sides reach Ellis Park having shared the honours in the previous two Tests - the Lions winning the opener in Kings Park and the Springboks levelling things up at Loftus. A bruised and battered Lions squad get over the line for an historic series triumph thanks to the kicking prowess of Jones who delivers a faultless display.

Edwards breaks record for longest stakeout
Following another disappointing showing in the Six Nations, pressure grows on England's 'suits' with renewed question marks about what Rob Andrew actually does as the Rugby Football Union's director of elite rugby. Sky Sports' intrepid reporter Phil Edwards is once again on the scene at Rugby House in Twickenham awaiting comment from Andrew but sets a new world record for the length of an outside broadcast without talking to anyone - four days, six hours and 12 minutes - breaking the record of his Sky colleague Nick Collins who spent three days outside the Football Association's Soho Square headquarters in 2007.

Blues end Welsh drought in Heineken Cup
Wales' dominance of the northern hemisphere stage breaks new ground with their first success in Europe's premier club competition. Cardiff Blues upset the odds by storming to the Heineken Cup title with victory over French giants Toulouse. Man-mountain Andy Powell and the elusive Leigh Halfpenny perfectly illustrate the Blues' balance of strength and flair that also accounts for Munster in the semi-finals in what will become known as the 'one of the greatest matches ever'.

X-Factor star Chico plays Franklin's Gardens
No, we haven't gone mad and our crystal ball is still under warranty. Sadly this headline has already appeared this year as the talent show cast-off was entertaining the Saints' crowd after their recent Premiership victory over Bristol. Next stop Twickenham?

Bath find backbone and clinch Premiership crown
Bath end a 13-year title drought by claiming the Guinness Premiership title with victory over Wasps in one of the most entertaining clashes in years. A free-flowing final produced seven tries and another record club crowd at Twickenham. By lifting the Premiership silverware the West Country side defy the sceptics who predicted that they would choke under the pressure of expectation. Wasps' annual late surge comes up just short but is a ringing endorsement of Lions coaches McGeechan and Shaun Edwards.

Mills & Boon's rugby best-seller hits the big screen
Production starts on the film version of the Mills & Boon's The Prince's Waitress Wife - one of their rugby-themed novels released to equal ridicule and acclaim at the start of the year. A cast including Colin Firth, Kelly Brook and RFU boss Francis Baron is assembled for the film that promises, "rippling muscles, strapping thighs and an explanation of the ELVs".

Top 14 euro super league takes shape
France's top flight continues to evolve into a European super-league with the world's best players descending on the cash-rich Top 14 clubs as the credit crunch bites elsewhere on the continent. Toulouse power to the title while England stars Danny Cipriani and James Haskell are amongst those to cross the channel. New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw also has a change of heart about a sojourn in the northern hemisphere when Stade Francais boss Max Guazzini sends him a blank cheque - delivered by a knight on horseback.

Rugby makes return to Olympics
The International Rugby Board celebrates the return of rugby to the Olympic programme after securing enough votes at the crucial meeting of the International Olympic executive in Copenhagen in October, seeing off the likes of karate and roller sports. The 117 IOC members are treated to presentations from the great and the good of the rugby world and IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset is eventually rewarded for his efforts spearheading the campaign. Olympic status unlocks a wealth of funding for many developing nations with the decision hailed as a, "defining moment in the history of the sport".

ELVs divide sport at IRB conference
As expected, the debate surrounding the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) reaches a head at the International Rugby Board conference in the Spring. The southern hemisphere demands the game adopts all the ELVs but the northern counterparts stand firm on what they see as the traditions of the game. As a result only the least contentious variations are adopted - even despite Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill's pledge to take a vow of silence if all were adopted.


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