It’s hard to believe the British and Irish Lions tour is over for another four years. It seems that since the turn of the year, every second column inch has been dedicated to something Lions related – be it selection debate, the intense tour schedule, injury concerns, predictions of the series, the style of rugby the Lions will implement, the All Blacks’ injury problems – and that was before the tour started. It’s safe to say it has been relentless.
We have been blessed with some incredibly exciting and high-quality rugby over the past five weeks it’s understandable to feel a little deflated that it’s all over, especially with the anti-climatic nature of the third Test.
However, there is still a huge amount of rugby to look forward to with some excellent competitions already taking place or nearing their conclusion. Not to mention the beginning of the domestic northern hemisphere seasons which are less than two months away.
This year’s Super Rugby competition has been going about its business quietly in the midst of the Lions tour but there is only one round left of the regular season which takes place next weekend. After that, it’s time for the playoffs, semi-finals and final. Each of these takes place on consecutive weekends beginning with the playoff rounds on 21 and 22 July.
At this moment, the finalists have all been but confirmed and the following teams are currently in those coveted playoff positions: Crusaders, Brumbies, Hurricanes, Chiefs, Highlanders, Lions, Stormers and the Sharks.
If you are in the UK or Ireland, you will be able to see all the action as the matches will be broadcast on Sky Sports.
Pacific Nations Cup
The annual tournament between the Pacific Island nations; Fiji, Tonga and Samoa is currently taking place. What is interesting about this year’s edition is that the top two teams on aggregate across the 2016 and 2017 editions book their tickets to the 2019 World Cup as Oceania 1 and 2 respectively.
There is one fixture left, between Samoa and Fiji and that takes place on Saturday 15 July.
South Africa’s premier domestic rugby competition kicks off on July 21 as defending champions the Free State Cheetahs are at home to the Sharks. The competition runs from July to the end of October.
Women’s World Cup
The Women’s Rugby World Cup is taking place in Ireland this year with the competition kicking off on Wednesday 9 August as one of the tournament favourites, England, take on Spain. All pool games are taking place at the UCD Bowl in Dublin before the knockout rounds are staged in Belfast, at Queen University and Ulster Rugby’s Kingspan Stadium.
There is huge interest in this tournament and sell-out crowds are expected for many fixtures so it will surely be a great spectacle. You will be able to watch the games online in addition to television broadcasters which have yet to be announced.
Mitre 10 Cup
New Zealand’s provincial rugby union competition begins on 17 August as defending champions North Harbour host Otago. Considering the depth of talent in New Zealand and how so many quality players and coaches cut their teeth in this competition, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
The Rugby Championship
It won’t be long before we see the return of the All Blacks as they pay a visit to Sydney’s ANZ Stadium to kick off this year’s edition of the tournament on 19 August. The Lions tour proved that the All Blacks have weaknesses but do the likes of the Wallabies, the Springboks and Argentina have the quality to threaten them? Based on recent showings, no, but we won’t know until the tournament begins. The matches will be broadcast on Sky Sports.
The PRO12 (or should we say PRO14?), the Premiership and the Top 14 are all set to kick off at the end of August/beginning of September. Sky Sports and BT Sport show games from all three tournaments in addition to the respective domestic broadcasters such as TG4 in Ireland and the BBC in the UK for PRO12 action.
So, cheer up! The Lions isn’t everything and there’s plenty of rugby to get excited about!