Thursday 19 December 2019 3:12 pm

Japan pulled off an incredible Rugby World Cup this year capped off by Siya Kolisi lifting the trophy

Without doubt, the highlight of the year was the Rugby World Cup.

It was held in Asia for the first time and Japan did a magnificent job as hosts. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly; it is truly an amazing place.

Despite the tragedy of Typhoon Hagibis, which ripped through the country and caused devastation, they still managed to put on an incredible show.

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And on the field, everyone got caught up in the excitement. There were northern hemisphere sides seriously able to challenge their southern counterparts, with England beating three: Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

They ultimately came up short in the final against South Africa, but the Springboks deserved it and what a result it was for a fractured nation. Just like Nelson Mandela, captain Siya Kolisi has united the country and given the people hope.

Best game

Nonetheless, England turning over New Zealand 19-7 in the semi-final was hands down the best game of the tournament. In fact, it was the best game I have ever seen.

Being there was just an incredible experience and it was my personal highlight as four years of work under Eddie Jones came to fruition.

England v New Zealand - Rugby World Cup 2019: Semi-Final
England’s 19-7 win over New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final was the best game of the year

Best moment

While it was disappointing that England lost the final in Yokohama, it was wonderful to see Kolisi unite the rainbow nation.

He became the first black captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup – and you could see what it meant to him and the country.

Kolisi came from a slum in the Eastern Cape, where he had nothing, no shoes on his feet, and now he is the World Cup-winning captain.

Best player

The best player this year has to be the Fijian, Semi Radradra. He is a massive powerhouse in the backs and was in fine form at the World Cup, despite Fiji not progressing beyond the pool stages.

He was still able to show his quality in the four matches he did play, however, scoring two tries, and his performance against Wales in particular was outstanding.

Radradra is almost impossible to stop and equally difficult to get past. Bristol are set to have a real player on their hands when he comes to the Premiership next season.

RUGBYU-WC-2019-MATCH32-WAL-FIJ
Fiji’s wing Semi Radradra has been the best player this year and is set to join Bristol next season

Best coach

This could easily have been awarded to Rassie Erasmus after he masterminded South Africa’s World Cup win, but for me it has to be Jamie Joseph.

Japan wanted a coach that would get their side competing at the World Cup and the Kiwi took them above and beyond all expectations.

Not only did they produce some great performances, beating Ireland and Scotland, but they did so playing an incredible brand of rugby.

There was an inevitable energy and enthusiasm that Japan were likely to have playing in front of a home crowd, but the organisation and skill on display means Joseph deserves huge credit.

Japan v South Africa - Rugby World Cup 2019: Quarter Final
Jamie Joseph’s work with Japan makes him the standout choice for coach of the year

Prediction for 2020

This year I think we saw the reawakening of a sleeping giant as France came within touching distance of a World Cup semi-final.

They started to play some really exciting rugby in Japan and perhaps would have beaten Wales in the quarter-final but for some ill-discipline from Sebastien Vahaamahina who was sent off.

Read more: Bristol Bears have the potential to become Premiership big-hitters under Pat Lam and Steve Lansdown

In coaches Fabien Galthie and Shaun Edwards they have real talismanic leaders and there is an abundance of amazing players coming through the ranks.

France’s club sides are also excelling in Europe so far this season, and while the Six Nations is England’s to lose, I believe France will be their biggest challengers for the title.

Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is a director within the real estate & construction team at PwC and founder of Optimist Performance. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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