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11. Seven wonders of the world for 202209:19Will Owen looks back at some of the rugby names we learnt in 2021 and predict what 2022 may hold for them.
10. Polledri sees light at end of the tunnel11:05There were few more glorious sights than Jake Polledri with ball in hand. Grabbing a fistful of defenders, he would swat them aside with gleeful disdain; one after the other, they came and went; his giant legs hammering away like pistons, crushing any hopes they had of bringing him down.
9. Nick Tompkins Interview12:03If fans thought the life of a professional rugby player was all sponsorship deals, coffee shop get-togethers and Instagramming, they would be disabused of that notion by speaking to Nick Tompkins, the livewire Saracens and Wales midfielder. For all the glamorous trips to Munich, Miami and Verbier in Saracens’ past, when The XV spoke to the 26-year-old, he was in Chislehurst, Kent, helping the ‘old man’ with odd-jobs.
8. Warming the bench for a once-in-a-generation talent10:43Antoine Dupont celebrated his nomination last week as World Rugby’s player of the year by collecting another accolade last Saturday. This one was more mundane, a man of the match award for his outstanding performance for Toulouse in their Champions Cup victory over Cardiff. So stupendous was the French scrum-half that he left Sam Warburton in the television commentary box almost speechless in wonderment.
7. From Youngs pretender to the throne of England07:29Despite the theoretically simple nature of the No9 position, the evolution of attacking shape requires its half-backs to have an encyclopedic knowledge of how to maintain structure, play at the right tempo and move forward. Ben Youngs arrived before Aaron Smith but has outstayed the retirement of Will Genia. While he doesn’t quite gain the plaudits of these two as the best scrum-half on the planet, he’s consistently in the conversation for the top four or five.
6. Allez les Bleus: How France went from meek to magnificent12:03France are back, and isn’t the rugby world a whole lot brighter for it? Saturday’s stunning domination of the All Blacks felt like a seminal victory for a team that has come of age under Fabien Galthie.
5. The life of a head coach - Graham Simmons17:02Graham Simmons takes a fascinating and in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes life and hard grind of a professional rugby coach.
4. Rugby’s eligibility laws relics of a bygone era - Gregor Paul09:37Eligibility is a difficult business for World Rugby to get right. Policy is governed by one overwhelming objective, which is to preserve the integrity of the international game and while that may seem relatively simple to achieve, it is most definitely not.