As you’re cleaning up the empties and sweeping away the debris of 2014, trying your best to forget the shockers of the last year and worrying what the next 12 months will bring, it’s time to set some targets.
For many this means resolutions. You know: start going to the gym, give up cigarettes, stop moaning about your boss or maybe to start actually taking the bins out before you hear the lorry outside your front door. We all need to plan on bettering ourselves. Somewhere you can also plan for improvements, though, is with your rugby schedule.
The year 2015 may go down as ‘rugby’s year’. You have the World Cup, clearly, but there’s so much more to get excited about. So as you stare forlornly at the blank squares on your new One Direction calendar, here are some dates to circle.
6 February, 2015
The Six Nations begins. Everyone’s favourite tussle for the top Test spot in Europe starts in the always-raucous Cardiff. On a Friday night. With England coming to town. Think fireworks, but not the kind that light up the sky in myriad colours; the kind that go off in your hands. The tournament should kick off with the loudest, flashiest, scariest possible bang as England visit Cardiff in the Six Nations for the first time since their 30-3 humbling in 2013.
Of course Ireland have a title to defend and they’re as buoyant as a helium-filled hovercraft right now. The tournament always breaks between the months of February and March, and Ireland end with two away games. So if they can keep it together and triumph against Wales away on the 14 March and then against Scotland at Murrayfield on 21 March, they will fully deserve their tag as World Cup contenders.
Want an added extra? Be safe in the knowledge that we still don’t know which France will turn up.
22 March, 2015
We have the LV= Cup final. Not always the event to get the juices going, perhaps it is time we all started giving the old Anglo-Welsh Cup a bit more attention. After all, if you ask any of last year’s winners from Exeter how they feel about it, they would love to tell you how much they celebrated lifting some silverware. Winning the LV= shows a clubs progression and it’s a great place to spot players with incredibly bright futures like Saracens’ Maro Itoje, Sale’s Michael Haley, Ospreys’ Sam Davies or Dragons’ Tyler Morgan.
1 May, 2015
There’s the European Challenge Cup Final. Grenoble coach Bernard Jackman may have come across all Ebenezer Scrooge when he poopooed the Challenge Cup as an unwelcome distraction, but hey, it’s a major trophy for some clubs. A big dog may win it at the Stoop in London with their second-team, but there is always the hope that one of the smaller clubs comes good. Bah humbug? Nah, let’s have some optimism and think of this not only as a curtain-raiser for the European Champions Cup final the next day, but hopefully also as a big day out for some of the unsung heroes of pro rugby in this part of the world.
2 May, 2015
Then there is the Champions Cup final. It’s year one for this new European competition, but the elite are all coveting it. It will be gargantuan. Simple as that.
End of May, 2015
There will be the Guinness Pro12 and the Aviva Premiership finals, both at the end of that month. These will be the last club outings for some superstars before we only care about Test rugby. Gala days out with thronging atmospheres as the cream of the club game do, with some old heroes playing their last games and some clubs finally ending their long journey to the top. Such battles are just what you need in May. Trust us.
18 September, 2015
The World Cup starts with England v Fiji. There will be other fixtures you are keen to see in these group stages – no doubt England v Wales on 26 September or England v Australia on 3 October could sell three times as many tickets as were doled out, Scotland v Samoa is a biggie and France v Ireland is always lively – but the event itself should be all-encompassing and enthralling. Get in on the ground floor in any way you can. Even if it’s just you being the noisiest person in the pub.
31 October, 2015
The World Cup final is on this day and although it was a long, hard slog to get here, with the knockout stages throwing up at least one sedate chess-like semi-final and your favourite team probably playing at least one stinker in the pool stages. However, wherever you are on this day, we have no doubt you will remember the date. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for.