Rugby Union Weekly’s 2020 review: Best moment, best player and hopes for 2021
It has not been a vintage year for rugby.
Video calling software, online delivery services, hand sanitiser manufacturers, maybe.
Rugby, or much else, no.
But there have been moments to celebrate, players to praise and brighter days to look forward to.
Here, featuring a full house of Ugo Monye, Danny Care, Chris Ashton and rugby union correspondent Chris Jones, are Rugby Union Weekly’s end-of-year awards.
Moment of 2020
Danny Care: “The moment at the end of the Champions Cup final, when Exeter coach Rob Baxter was waiting to be interviewed and he was looking over his shoulder watching his players lift the trophy. Just seeing the joy and pride on his face, how much it meant to them after the journey the club has been on from the Championship all the way to the top of Europe. That was really cool.”
Ugo Monye: “I’ve got a couple. England wing Jonny May’s solo try against Ireland was remarkable, one of the best tries of the year. And Alun Wyn Jones breaking the all-time caps record at an empty Parc y Scarlets in October as he made his 115th appearance for Wales, that was some effort.”
Chris Ashton: “The Exeter Chiefs completing the double by beating Wasps in the rain at Twickenham. Their back story of where they started out and where they have got it is incredible. A real positive one in a difficult year.”
Chris Jones: “Some of the stuff you see on in-house social media feels a bit staged but England prop Tom Dunn phoning home from Rome was a real, raw moment for a man who had to graft hard for his first cap.
“And then Argentina turning over the All Blacks with hardly any preparation and flying in the face of every bit of medical, training, physiological, coaching advice. That was a ridiculous achievement.”
Player of 2020
Ashton: “Semi Radradra. A big signing for Bristol, he has set the Premiership on fire and any lack of entertaining rugby we have had, he has made up for it individually.
Care: “Emily Scarratt. She is the best player in the world, back-to-back Grand Slam champion, and she kicked the last-minute penalty to win England’s second Test against France. She’s been incredible.”
Monye: “Caleb Clarke. He’s been devastating in Super Rugby and brought that form into an All Black jersey. He’ll probably win 40 caps, score 40 tries and then some 15-year-old sensation will turn up to take his spot!”
Jones: “Shout out to Finn Russell. He has not necessarily been the player of 2020, but more for what he’s done in a pretty mad year. At the start of the year he had his much-publicised spat with Gregor Townsend, then he made things happen for Racing every week. We have to cherish mavericks like him, because he’s a joy to watch in this often attritional game.”
Team of 2020
Monye: “This discussion turned out to be pretty much a non-starter. It is easily Exeter after their Champions Cup-Premiership double. But a quick word for England’s Red Roses. Another Grand Slam and they have built some superb strength in depth. They are heading into 2021 in fine form to try and avenge their last Rugby World Cup final defeat by New Zealand.”
What to look forward to in 2021?
Monye: “The Lions in South Africa. I’m hoping we’re back to some sort of normality by the summer and we get tens of thousands of British and Irish supporters flying to South Africa. I cannot wait for that tour, I think it will be something else.
“If it is the first rugby where the world feels back to normal again it could have a celebratory feel to it. The best of Britain and Ireland against the world champions in South Africa. It could be phenomenal.”
Jones: “The Women’s World Cup in the autumn should be fantastic as well. And a global calendar could come in to even up the hemisphere schedules and make some gains for the international game.”
Care: “Fans back in their seats. I want people abusing Ashton again, that’s all I want.”
Ashton: “Me too. Throw some abuse my way.”