The 2022 rugby year saw some outstanding moments of brilliance for both teams and individual players. Some dripping in history, and others so great in their quality that they drew the breath of the rugby community, who sat in awe at the events that transpired.
Planet Rugby highlights seven moments that took our breath away in 2022.
Black Ferns bask in glory at home
The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup played in 2022 was a success in every sense of the word as records of attendance and engagement in the women’s game tumbled.
The final was competed between hosts the Black Ferns and favourites England drawing a crowd of 42,579 people to Eden Park – a record number for women’s rugby and a standalone women’s sporting event in New Zealand.
The Black Ferns would go on to nick the game at the death and, in doing so, snatch the hearts of the world. Powerful characters such as Ruby Tui spoke freely and openly about the growth of the women’s game and what the tournament means to so many players.
It was a goosebump moment seeing the Black Ferns hoist the trophy into the Eden Park sky with fans screaming their lungs out for a team so good at the game but so inspiring in its make-up.
This World Cup will forever be remembered as a key tournament in the development of the women’s game.
— Newshub (@NewshubNZ) November 12, 2022
Perfect France became Grand Slam champions
2022 saw France become the team to beat in the world despite not being on top of the rankings as Fabien Galthie’s men clearly announced they are ready to push for glory in their home World Cup next year.
Les Bleus end the year as the only unbeaten team and the only one to have beaten every tier-one nation in the last 12 months – a remarkable feat.
Part of this journey was the Six Nations, where France looked so strong and secure in their processes. Of course, some teams ran Galthie’s men close, but there was almost this sense of inevitability that come hail, snow or sun, this team will find a way to get the job done.
France produced a perfect record in the championship, lifting a Grand Slam as the side dominated in such an impressive fashion.
Ireland’s rise to the top of the world followed the French triumph, but it is Galthie’s creation that shone brightest.
For good measure, France added two dramatic wins in the Autumn Nations Series against the Springboks and Wallabies to underline the threat they pose.
Galthie will feel as if the planets are aligning for a slice of history next year, and it would be very hard to argue against it. This Les Bleus side is different.
Improving Italy underline their worth
The Azzurri found themselves in the face of adversity in 2022 as speculation rose around the Springboks replacing Italy in the Six Nations after such a successful integration into northern hemisphere club rugby.
The rumour and even the prospect itself placed enormous pressure on Italy. It opened the door to massive scrutiny from the general public, who then, more than ever, were more willing to analyse the team’s record in the competition and ultimately question what the side offers to the Six Nations.
However, coach Kieran Crowley and his men did not lie down and put together a decent campaign where they showed promise against most of the teams but failed to get a result, until the final round.
Wales held a 21-15 lead in the gruelling Test with just less than two minutes on the clock before a moment of magic changed everything.
The hosts kicked the ball deep to young full-back Ange Capuozzo who collected just inside his own half, skirted around some defenders as he found space in the right-hand flank before beating a covering defender with a sensational step. The superstar completed the move with a well-timed inside ball to Edoardo Padovani, who scored the try giving Italy their first win in Cardiff.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 19, 2022
The magic moment unearthed the diamond that is Capuozzo, who continued growing and proved extremely valuable in the Autumn Nations Series when the Azzurri created history again, beating Australia for the first time.
Surprise, surprise, Capuozzo bagged a brace of tries on the day and went on to win World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year.
Two powerful wins typified the Italian character and heart. The will to perform despite the odds and the will to control the narrative about their team has been clear to see.
Stormers defy the odds to win maiden title
Entering the inaugural season of the United Rugby Championship, the Stormers were in financial despair, so much so that the team’s first game against Benetton almost did not go ahead.
The side had moved from the beloved Newlands Stadium to Cape Town Stadium in a bid to boost financial stability. Meanwhile, the Sharks and Bulls were loading up their squads with quality talent in a busy period of transfers.
The Stormers looked to players who had not gelled with other unions to put together a decent-looking squad on paper. However, after a mixed start, the Cape Town men started to find their groove under coach John Dobson, who encouraged players to express themselves, giving birth to the most beautiful free-running style that certainly caught the eye.
Dobson turned to poetry and Greek Mythology to inspire the squad he dubbed ‘the absurd heroes’. The ploy worked incredibly well as the Stormers became one of the teams to beat in the competition.
Before long, the Stormers were on an incredible run of games and met a familiar foe in the Grand Final as the Bulls made the trip down for a classic north-south derby.
Dobson’s side would win their 11th consecutive match to claim the club’s first major title. It was a fairytale for the Cape Town men who broke the mould in their approach and, in doing so, created history.
The cherry on the top was to see key players Manie Libbok, Evan Roos and Deon Fourie all earn Test caps as a result of a truly memorable campaign.
Argentina transcend under Michael Cheika
Earlier in the year, former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika took on the Los Pumas hot seat after the resignation of Mario Ledesma. The Australian soon called on Felipe Contepomi from Leinster to his coaching staff as a clear successor after the World Cup next year.
The work then began, and Argentina began to find a strong identity under Cheika and soon had a July series win against Scotland under their belt before heading into the Rugby Championship.
Round Two saw Los Pumas gain the first of a few high-profile scalps in 2022. Argentina were up against the Wallabies and looked absolutely brilliant, playing with passion and nous as they holistically outplayed their rivals to claim a whopping 48-17 win over Australia – their biggest win against the Wallabies in history.
The performance was a statement to the world that things had changed. The team did not wait long to underline that, as just a few weeks later, Argentina toppled the mighty All Blacks on New Zealand soil for the first time in history.
Unfortunately for Cheika and his men, the side could not claim any further victories in the competition, but their historic wins had already sent shockwaves through world rugby.
The mood in the Los Pumas camp was around continuing growth despite what had been achieved. The team got to spoil yet another party in the Autumn Nations Series opening round, beating England at Twickenham in one of the final straws of Eddie Jones’ tenure with the Red Rose.
Growth is the action word for Argentina’s 2022, and the team will only get better.
Pacific derby (Super Rugby Pacific)
One of our favourites from the year. The expansion to Super Rugby Pacific with the inclusion of the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika proved very successful in 2022.
The two new teams added cultural richness and authenticity to the competition. Even more so, it felt like the start of a swing in support for Pacific Island rugby, as World Rugby had just changed their eligibility laws around the same time, allowing players to switch nationalities.
It was always going to be difficult to integrate into the competition and be successful immediately, but both made their mark on the competition with their first wins and some stellar performances.
However, the moment that was truly breathtaking was the first ever pacific derby played at the CommBank Stadium. For the first time, the teams both laid down their challenge before the game in a truly magnificent moment.
To see both sides completely immersed in war chant, bursting with pride and passion for their heritage and all that they represent, was a remarkable sight.
It was a big moment for Pacific Island rugby and one that will age beautifully like a fine wine as the rugby fraternity reflects on the moment years from now as a key event in the rise of the sleeping giants in the game.
This is special 🙌
— Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) May 14, 2022
Georgia create history against Wales
Wales once again find themselves on the wrong end of one of the moments of the year. Georgia are easily one of the fastest-growing rugby nations in the world and have seen an impressive rise over the last 10 years from top to bottom, with an impressive set of players blossoming currently after coming through the structures.
Georgia have long been in light debates and speculation over their possible inclusion in the Six Nations, either extending the tournament or at Italy’s expense, and one victory in 2022 justified their inclusion in that conversation.
The Lelos faced Wales in Cardiff and fought viciously to claim a 13-12 win – their first against Wales in history.
It was a watershed moment for a country developing so encouragingly, but it was one of the final acts of Wayne Pivac in the Welsh hot seat as he received the axe weeks later with the rugby ecosystem in the country in desperate need of a fix.