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Toulon RFC celebrates

In no particular order, the top ten international rugby events from 2014.

  1. IRB Changed Name to World Rugby - Branding. Branding. Branding. No one objected to International Rugby Board because everyone abbreviated the name to IRB. So, where was the "Rugby" in IRB as it shortened to three letters? Nowhere, that's where. The new name change came with a fancy web site's graphic design, and a rounded blue, green, white World Rugby logo, now used also for country flags.  
  2. Ireland Ranked Third - Ireland, after winning 2014 Six Nations for the 12th time on points differential, finished the year with home autumn tour victories over South Africa and Australia to advance to third in the World Rugby standings.  The high placement raises Rugby World Cup 2015 expectations since the Irish have never advanced into the semi-finals in the past seven played world cups. (Japan stands at 11th, its highest rating. Italy dropped to 14th.)
  3. The Rise of the Sevens' Sprinters - Seabolo Senatla. Carlin Isles. Perry Baker. These players became rugby household names in 2014; their dashing tries appearing regularly on social media.  Speed was always important in wide-open sevens, but never had it received such worldwide attention. Look for more You Tube videos in 2015 of the fast men.
  4. England Women Win World Cup - The Red Roses displayed strength and determination, winning a brilliantly staged WRWC in France against Canada 21-9 in front of 25,000 attending the final in Paris' Jean Bouin stadium. Ian Ritchie, head of the RFU, predicted the win would accelerate growth. Look to England to host the 2017 WRWC.
  5. Ireland Women Upset New Zealand - The Black Ferns had not lost a test match for eons and eons, and were highly favored to repeat as WRWC champions.  But the Irish, third place finishers in the Six Nations, stepped up their game a double notch to win in Pool play. Their coach announced retirement after the event, and this spurred on the team. A million Irish fans watched the memorable game on television, the commentary in Gaelic.
  6. South Africa defeat All Blacks - It looked as though New Zealand would finish the southern hemisphere Rugby XV Championship undefeated but, in the last game of the series, the Springboks won a thriller in Johannesburg 27-25.
  7. New Zealand Men and Women Win Sevens - The All Blacks continued their domination of the annual sevens circuit. No doubt both teams will finish in the top four places in the 2015 tournaments for an automatic bid to the 2016 Brazil Olympics. But, New Zealand men lost to South Africa in the Commonwealth Games, their first sevens loss in this event since 1998.
  8. Magali Harvey, Canada - The breakout emergence of a bona fides star, talented and modest. Her spectacular try against France remained the most viewed of all international tries. Canada's second place finish in the WRWC will provide a impetus to more women playing the game.
  9. Jonny Wilkinson Retires - The end of an era, and end of a brilliant career. He led Toulon to the Heineken Cup, scoring 15 of the club's 18 points. The French club's fans gave him a deserved send off in a heart-felt warm tribute to a gentleman of rugby.
  10. New Zealand in Chicago  - The All Blacks came to town, selling out Soldiers' Field and attracting a million television viewers.  Let's end the punditry of what this game meant to rugby in America. It made a memory.