As the next Rugby Union World Cup is in 2011, one might expect 2010's rugby calendar to look somewhat derelict but that is far from the truth. With the Sevens World Series touring the globe and the Six Nations setting northern Europe alight with rugby fever, there is plenty of hard tackling to be had during the first half of 2010, after which follows the Tri-Nations, the World University Rugby Cup, and the Women's World Rugby Cup.
Six Nations Championship
Saturdays, February 6 - March 20
Six nations play each other just once in a 15-match, six-week tournament of top-level European rugby. As well as the overall Six Nations trophy, there are several other titles up for grabs. For example, England and Scotland play each other for the Calcutta Cup, Ireland and England for the Millennium Trophy, and Ireland and Scotland for the Centenary Quaich, while France and Italy have more recently started to contest the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy. England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have a chance of achieving the Triple Crown by beating each of the other three Home Nations (harking back to the competition's 19th century origins). On top of all that, there is the ultimate in bragging rights, the Grand Slam, awarded to the team that emerges victorious from each and every of its Six Nations matches.
Tickets are available from each host nation Union:
English Rugby Football Union - www.rfu.com
French Rugby Federation - www.ffr.fr
Irish Rugby Football Union - www.irishrugby.ie
Italian Rugby Federation - www.federugby.it
Scottish Rugby Union - www.scottishrugby.org
Welsh Rugby Union - www.wru.co.uk
IRB Sevens World Series
Wellington, New Zealand, February 5-6
Las Vegas, USA, February 13-14
Adelaide, Australia, March 19-21
Hong Kong, March 26-28
London, England, May 22-23
Edinburgh, Scotland, May 29-30
The Sevens World Series, now in its 11th year, was initially devised as a platform for the best international teams in the rugby union sevens to go head-to-head whilst raising the profile of the sport around the world. Sevens matches are substantially shorter in length and with faster-paced play than standard Rugby Union matches: each game comprises two seven-minute halves, meaning that a cornucopia of face-offs can be packed into a weekend tournament. Hospitality and travel packages remain for the New Zealand leg, and tickets for many of the following tournaments are already available via links from the IRB website.
Saturdays, July 10 - September 11
Australian, New Zealand, South African locations
A round-robin competition organized by the Australian, New Zealand, and South African Rugby Unions, the Tri Nations matches also play a part in deciding who wins three separate challenge trophies: Australia and New Zealand contest the Bledisloe Cup, Australia and South Africa tussle for the Mandela Challenge Plate, New Zealand and South Africa vie for ownership of the Freedom Cup.
World University Rugby Sevens
The WURS has both men's and women's tournaments contained within its boundaries, and representation from a good variety of nations has already been confirmed, with teams from Russia, Brazil, Kenya, Guam, Australia and China joining Great Britain, Portugal, France, Norway, Spain and Canada at the University of Porto for four days in July.
Women's Rugby World Cup
August 20 - September 5
Guildford and Twickenham, United Kingdom
The top international tournament in women's rugby has been going since the first finals in 1991 and here returns to the UK for its sixth edition. New Zealand, consecutive champions since 1998, will be defending their title against 11 other top teams. It should be noted that the Twickenham matches, including the final on September 5, will actually take place at the Twickenham Stoop stadium, home of the Harlequins Rugby League and Union clubs, and not the similarly named Twickenham Stadium.