We look back at the moments which – for better or for worse – made 2015 a year to remember.
Jan 12: Sam Burgess scores his first try in Rugby Union for Bath since his cross-code move, telling reporters: “I am glad to get the monkey off the back.”
Jan 25: After 95 Tests for Wales, prop Adam Jones calls it a day and brings his international career to a close.
Feb 6: England stun Wales with a win on a Friday night in Cardiff to open the 2015 Six Nations.
Feb 14: The Rebels make history with a first ever win in Super Rugby away from Australia, stunning the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Feb 20: Karmichael Hunt, the Reds’ star signing and tipped to make the Wallabies squad, is stood down by the Brisbane-based franchise after his arrest for supplying cocaine.
Feb 20: Mark Hammett, the former Hurricanes boss, leaves Cardiff Blues with immediate effect after a poor run of results.
Feb 23: Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni is ruled out of their game Scotland due to injury… because a dog took a bite at his nose, requiring 14 stitches.
Mar 2: Ireland convincingly defeat England in Dublin in what was at the time regarded as the pivotal match in the race for the Six Nations title.
Mar 15: Italy are nilled 29-0 by France at home in one of their worst ever Six Nations results.
Mar 16: London Welsh, bottom of the Premiership and destined for relegation, part ways with their coach Justin Burnell.
Mar 21: A crazy final day of the Six Nations sees Ireland lift the title, after England defeated France 55-35 but fell short of the points margin required to clinch the trophy.
Mar 22: The Waratahs-Brumbies derby is marred by a homophobic slur made by Jacques Potgieter, who was subsequently fined AUS$20,000 (with $10,000 suspended).
Mar 27: Paul O’Connell is crowned Six Nations Player of the Year after guiding Ireland to a second consecutive title in his final tournament.
Apr 1: Ulster spring a surprise when they announce the signing of All Blacks winger Charles Piutau from 2016.
Apr 3: Former New Zealand full-back Mils Muliaina is arrested on suspicion of sexual assault after playing for Connacht against Gloucester at Kingsholm. Muliaina was later cleared of all charges in October.
Apr 7: Argentina captain Agustín Creevy signs a contract with the country’s new Super Rugby franchise.
Apr 20: Aaron Cruden’s World Cup hopes are dashed after he ruptures his ACL playing for the Chiefs in Super Rugby.
May 2: Toulon make history by becoming the first side to win three European Cups in a row, after defeating Clermont at Twickenham.
May 5: Clermont’s Nick Abendanon is crowned European Player of the Year after an outstanding first season with les Jaunards.
May 8: Naka Drotske announces that he will step down as Cheetahs head coach at the end of the Super Rugby season. The South African franchise eventually finished 12th with five wins from 16 games.
May 15: England’s Manu Tuilagi is arrested for assaulting a police officer and subsequently ruled out of the Rugby World Cup.
May 17: USA win their first ever leg of the Sevens World Series in London, as Fiji are crowned Series champions.
May 23: A mad final day in the Top 14 regular season sees Bayonne relegated despite securing a seven-try win over La Rochelle.
May 27: Dylan Hartley is suspended by the RFU for four weeks, ruling him out of the start of the Rugby World Cup. England subsequently leave him out of their squad.
May 30: Saracens and Glasgow Warriors are crowned Premiership and PRO12 champions respectively on a busy day.
June 2: A day after his man of the match performance for England against the Barbarians, Danny Cipriani is arrested for drink-driving.
June 5: The rugby world is rocked by the tragic death of Jerry Collins and his wife Alana, with tributes pouring in from around the world for the former All Blacks flanker who bravely saved his daughter’s life. Collins’ former team-mates perform a moving haka at the site of the accident, while among the number of brilliant stories about his life one in particular sticks out – when he turned out for Barnstaple RFC in Devon, England, after being approached to play for them while on holiday.
June 13: Stade Français are crowned Top 14 champions after defeating Clermont at the Stade de France.
June 16: Toulon announce two major signings for the new season in the shape of Ireland legend Paul O’Connell and South Africa number eight Duane Vermeulen.
July 4: The Highlanders win the 2015 Super Rugby title after defeating the Hurricanes in a thrilling final in Wellington.
July 8: New Zealand do enough to defeat Samoa in a historic Test match between the two nations held in Apia.
July 11: Jean de Villiers completed his remarkable comeback from injury by appearing off the bench for South Africa against the World XV.
July 25: Lima Sopoaga impressed on debut as New Zealand defeated South Africa at Ellis Park in the Rugby Championship.
Aug 4: Fiji are crowned Pacific Nations Cup champions after defeating Samoa.
Aug 8: Australia win the Rugby Championship for the first time in four years after defeating the All Blacks in Sydney, while Argentina also made history by defeating the Springboks in South Africa for the first time as Juan Imhoff became the first player to score a Test hat-trick against SA.
Aug 15: Richie McCaw became the most-capped Test player of all time, overtaking Brian O’Driscoll, as New Zealand retain the Bledisloe Cup with a win over the Wallabies.
Sep 5: Wales suffer two disastrous injuries in their final World Cup warm-up match with Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny later ruled out of the tournament.
Sep 18: The 2015 Rugby World Cup begins at Twickenham, where after a spectacular opening ceremony hosts England defeat Fiji with a late bonus point try to get their campaign up and running.
Sep 19: Japan pull off the greatest shock in RWC history by defeating South Africa in Brighton – one of the tournament’s all-time great matches.
Sep 27: Jean de Villiers’ international career comes to an end after he breaks his jaw in South Africa’s win over Samoa.
Oct 3: England are sent crashing out of the Rugby World Cup following their loss to Australia at Twickenham, becoming the first hosts to fail to reach the knockout stage.
Oct 5: Japan’s Super Rugby franchise are unveiled as the Sunwolves ahead of their debut in the 2016 competition.
Oct 11: Japan exit the Rugby World Cup despite winning three pool matches, becoming the first side to reach that win total but to fail to make the knockout stages. On the same day, Paul O’Connell suffers a serious hamstring injury in Ireland’s win over France which rules him out of the rest of the World Cup, bringing an end to his illustrious Test career.
Oct 17: New Zealand humiliate France by a record scoreline in the RWC quarter-final, winning 62-13 in Cardiff.
Oct 18: A contentious late penalty from referee Craig Joubert sees him flee from the field after Australia edge Scotland 35-34 to make it an all-Southern Hemisphere set of semi-finals at the RWC for the first time.
Oct 31: New Zealand become the first team in history to win three World Cups and also back-to-back titles, after defeating Australia in the final. Dan Carter puts in a spectacular performance and the celebrations are remembered for Sonny Bill Williams giving his medal away to a young supporter who was tackled by security trying to get onto the field.
Nov 2: Dan Carter is named World Player of the Year at an awards ceremony in London following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup. Michael Cheika wins the Head Coach of the Year award.
Nov 9: A professional league for the first time in the United States is unveiled as PRO Rugby, to begin in 2016 featuring initially six teams.
Nov 11: Stuart Lancaster steps down as England head coach following their disastrous World Cup campaign, with four consecutive second-placed finishes in the Six Nations to his name.
Nov 18: Jonah Lomu – the great Jonah Lomu – passes away at the age of 40. Tributes flood in from across the world, from ex-players to the Queen of England, as Lomu is remembered as rugby’s first true superstar – phenomenal on the field and movingly generous off it. Ceremonies take place across New Zealand, including in front of thousands at Eden Park, where Eric Rush delivers a moving eulogy. [Even writing this now is extremely sad. RIP Jonah and Jerry – Ed.]
Nov 20: Eddie Jones is confirmed as England’s new head coach, replacing Stuart Lancaster, having only been in charge of the Stormers for less than two weeks.
Dec 5: Fiji continue where they left off by clinching the first leg of the 2015/2016 Sevens World Series in Dubai with a win over England in the final. Ma’a Nonu also makes his debut for Toulon.
Dec 12: Dan Carter makes his debut for new club Racing 92, his second stint in France, with a convincing victory over Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.
Dec 16: The UAR reveal that Argentina’s new Super Rugby franchise will be called the Jaguares, captaining by Agustín Creevy and with former Argentina legend Felipe Contepomi as an assistant coach.
Dec 23: Alama Ieremia, the former All Black, is named as the new head coach of Samoa, replacing Stephen Betham following the team’s poor Rugby World Cup campaign.
Dec 28: Ireland and Leinster back Ian Madigan announces that he leave the country at the end of the season to join Bordeaux-Bègles in the Top 14.