Ollie Phillips: My hopes for rugby over the next 12 months
The next 12 months have the potential to be game-changing for rugby. It’s a World Cup year and domestic leagues are becoming ever more competitive, so here are my three hopes for the coming year.
Nothing to lose
My main hope for 2023 is to see England give the Six Nations and World Cup a good go. I still do not believe sacking Eddie Jones was the right thing to do but I do like the look of Steve Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield at the helm.
From the national side this year, I would like to see them really challenge France at home in the Six Nations and put up a good showing in Ireland. Beating one of the top sides in the world would be the early confidence boost that England need in this new era.
I think England can still win the World Cup, frankly, and believe they can surprise so many in the rugby world.
I’d like to see Borthwick’s side develop some creativity in their midfield. Remember the days of Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall and Rory Underwood?
Besides that, I’m not too sure there’s much to change in the side. The pack is strong and the set piece generally performs well.
I do wonder whether Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes will carry on sharing the captaincy or whether the likes of Ellis Genge could take over. Borthwick knows the prop from their time at Leicester Tigers.
Get le rugby party started
It’s only January but I already cannot wait until September and the Rugby World Cup in France.
You’ve got a misfiring All Blacks side, a brute South African outfit and a number of other challengers for the William Webb Ellis trophy.
But I hope in 2023 we finally see a second northern hemisphere World Cup winner.
It’s going to be the best World Cup ever and I really think both France and Ireland can be challengers for the title. You’d be brave to rule out an England resurgence, either.
I want to see Ireland finally win a knockout match and I want to see Chile and Portugal give good accounts of themselves.
I think we could see the host nation in the final but I have a soft spot for what’s going on in Ireland and I hope they can finally add their name to the roll call of winners.
There’s no arguing with the fact that the Premiership rugby is the best and most competitive league in the world.
The domestic product coming out of England is outstanding, but I worry about what else is going on.
I hope 2023 can be a year where there’s mass appreciation for the Championship and what it can offer the top flight, and I hope there’s now a period of stability where clubs can consolidate their positions and protect their futures.
It won’t be easy but where there’s a will.
Around the grounds
I wish Wales well under Warren Gatland this year. They’re in a similar position to England in having changed coach before a World Cup, but I think their position is worse.
Wales lost to Italy and Georgia last year and are due to play the latter in the World Cup, where the Lelos will be in their pool.
If you want a turnaround job, Gatland is the man to do it – but his familiarity with the role could also be his achilles heel. It is also understood that Alex King will join Wales as attack coach.
Scotland could be coachless after the Rugby World Cup with Gregor Townsend linked with a move to France, but heading into the showpiece event they’re positioned nicely.
I hope they have a strong Six Nations with an attacking mindset at the heart. Gone are the days of them hoping for bad conditions to steal a win.
Townsend and Finn Russell need to kiss and make up. Without the fly-half Scotland are a completely different team.
China Sevens head coach Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.