At the end of a busy year we pick out some of the key moments from the last 12 months, from coaching changes to new records and more.
Feb 9: Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell is forced to announce his retirement from rugby after failing to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained at the World Cup in 2015.
Mar 13: Scotland’s 29-18 win over France at Murrayfield gave England the 2016 Six Nations title with one round to go.
Mar 19: England beat France 31-21 at Stade de France to secure a Six Nations Grand Slam after winning the title the week before.
Apr 12: Former Stormers boss Allister Coetzee was named as the new head coach of South Africa for the next four years, taking over from Heyneke Meyer.
Apr 23: Japan’s Sunwolves earned a historic first ever victory in Super Rugby when they beat the Jaguares 36-28 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.
Apr 25: The appointment of Rassie Erasmus as new director of rugby at Munster is confirmed by SARU CEO Jurie Roux.
Apr 26: Racing 92 prop Martin Castrogiovanni is suspended by the club pending an investigation after he was pictured in Las Vegas. Castrogiovanni had told the club that he had to attend a family health matter in Argentina and as a result did not travel with the rest of the Racing squad for their Champions Cup semi-final win over Leicester Tigers in Nottingham. Instead the Italy international was spotted partying in Las Vegas with a number of players from French football champions PSG.
May 14: Saracens win the Champions Cup for the first time with a 21-9 victory over Racing 92 in the final in Lyon.
May 15: Maro Itoje picked up a Champions Cup winners’ medal, the Heineken Man of the Match award and was then named as the EPCR European Player of the Year 2016.
May 28: Saracens beat Exeter 28-20 in the Premiership final to successfully defend the title they won in 2015. Saracens also became the first English club to achieve a Premiership and European Cup double since Wasps in 2004.
May 28: Connacht win their first PRO12 title with a 20-10 victory over fellow Irish club Leinster in the final at Murrayfield.
Jun 11: Ireland win their first ever Test in South Africa playing most of the game with 14 men (after CJ Stander’s red card) to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Jun 18: England clinch a historic series victory in Australia with a 23-7 victory over the Wallabies in the second of three Tests, having won the first match 39-28.
Jun 25: England whitewash Australia 3-0 with a controversial 44-40 win in the third and final Test.
Jun 25: The All Blacks beat Wales 46-6 for a 3-0 clean sweep in their three-match series.
Jun 25: South Africa beat Ireland 19-13 in a hard fought contest in Port Elizabeth to secure a 2-1 series victory and save new coach Allister from heavy criticism… for now.
Jul 30: The Lions and Hurricanes qualify for the Super Rugby final. The Lions secured a 42-30 win over the Highlanders in Johannesburg, while the Hurricanes beat the Chiefs 25-9 in Wellington.
Aug 6: The Hurricanes win the Super Rugby title after beating the Lions 20-3 in the final in Wellington.
Aug 12: Fiji’s Rugby Sevens team claimed their nation’s first ever Olympic medal in any sport after beating Great Britain 43-7 in the Final in Rio.
Aug 31: Ulster confirm the 2016/17 season will be Ruan Pienaar’s final one at the club. The club and the player were very keen for him to extend his stay in Belfast, but a contract extension was not possible due to the IRFU’s succession policy.
Sep 5: Former England head coach Stuart Lancaster joins the coaching staff of PRO12 giants Leinster in his first full-time role since stepping down as England boss last year.
Sep 17: Argentina’s defeat to Australia meant that New Zealand reclaim the Rugby Championship title for the fourth time in the last five years.
Sep 26: Uganda qualify for the Dubai leg of World Rugby’s Sevens series after beating Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Their impressive performances in Nairobi saw Uganda claim the Rugby Africa Sevens silverware as they won the final against Namibia 38-19.
Oct 7: Racing 92 deny that three of their players – Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff – tested positive for corticosteroids after the Top 14 Final.
Oct 16: Munster announce that head coach Anthony Foley has passed away overnight at the team hotel in Paris prior to their Champions Cup game against Racing 92.
Oct 17: Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff are cleared of doping following an investigation by the medical commission of the French Rugby Federation.
Oct 19: A two-day coaches indaba organised by the South African Rugby Union is held in Cape Town and was attended by the country’s six Super Rugby franchises as well as Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, his management team, referees, former national coaches and captains.
Oct 22: The All Blacks set a new Tier-1 Test record with their 18th consecutive victory after beating Australia 37-10 in a Bledisloe encounter in Auckland.
Nov 5: Ireland win their first ever Test against the All Blacks with an emphatic 40-29 win in Chicago, which also ended New Zealand’s record unbeaten run of 18 Tests.
Nov 7: Bristol have announced that their director of rugby Andy Robinson has left the Premiership club with immediate effect. Robinson joined the club in March 2013 and helped the team to the Championship title and promotion to the Premiership in May this year.
Nov 12: England beat South Africa for the first time in 10 years with a 37-21 victory at Twickenham to continue their unbeaten season.
Nov 14: New Zealand fly-half Beauden Barrett is crowned World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year becoming the fifth All Black in a row to receive the prestigious award, following in the footsteps of Daniel Carter (2012 and 2015), Kieran Read (2013) and Brodie Retallick (2014).
Nov 19: Italy beat South Africa for the first time ever with a 20-18 victory at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence to condemn the Boks to another humiliating defeat in 2016.
Nov 26: A week after famously beating the Springboks, Italy suffer an unexpected 19-17 defeat to Tonga.
Nov 26: Ireland finished their 2016 campaign on a high with a hard-fought 27-24 victory over Australia in Dublin, which made them the first Northern Hemisphere side, since England in 2003, to beat the Southern Hemisphere’s traditional powerhouses of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the same calendar year.
Dec 3: England keep their incredible winning run going after beating Australia 37-21 at Twickenham, making it 13 Tests unbeaten in 2016. It was England’s first year since 1992 that they haven’t lost a single game to make it a perfect season.
Dec 5: Connacht head coach Pat Lam announce he will be leaving the province at the end of the 2016/17 season to take over at Bristol.
Dec 7: South African referee Craig Joubert announces his retirement from XVs officiating in order to take up the role of Referee Talent Development Coach at World Rugby.
Dec 12: A new blueprint for South African rugby is announced by SARU president Mark Alexander following a disastrous year for the Springboks and a much hyped coaches indaba.
Dec 14: World Rugby announce the introduction of new “reckless” and “accidental” tackle laws to be introduced from January 3, 2017
Dec 17: Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni announces his retirement from rugby after a successful career for club and country. The 35-year-old won 119 caps for the Azzurri and is Italy’s second most-capped player behind Sergio Parisse.