Review of the year: The obvious variation is to hire a hungry New Zealander

Football has its odd-numbered years, bereft of major championships; in rugby it's the other way round. Without a World Cup or a Lions tour, hardly anything happened. Unless you count a Welsh Grand Slam, a New Zealand Grand Slam, the firing and hiring at Twickenham, the continuing success story of Munster, the financial panic spreading through the clubs, and three little letters which got everyone hot under the scrumcap: ELV.

You might not have known it by the hysteria, but the Experimental Law Variations had been around since January 2004, when administrators, players and – most influentially – coachesbegan banging rocks together at a conference in Auckland. The original idea was to make the game's labyrinthine lawbook more intelligible; it mutated into a batch of tweaks and rip-it-up-and-start-again changes which pleased nobody all of the time. When the 13 global ELVs were introduced for a season-long trial on 1 August 2008 they prompted fly-halves in England to kick the ball a lot. Wow.

England's Brian Ashton was jettisoned after years of mediocrity in the Six Nations but a World Cup final in 2007. An abject defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield cost Ashton dearly; the interregnum during which he had to bite his tongue while Martin Johnson was courted cost the Rugby Football Union much respect.

Sir Clive Woodward implied that Ashton's replacement was a mere pawn when it came to "playing chess" as a Test manager. England were beaten by Australia (28-14), New Zealand (42-6) and South Africa (32-6) at Twickenham, while the kingly Graham Henry's All Blacks won the Tri-Nations and a clean sweep of the home unions in the autumn. And they did it without a dozen top players, who had left for big bucks in Europe and Japan. The New Zealand union, alarmed, gave Dan Carter a six- month "sabbatical" in Perpignan to preserve his long-term availability.

Munster's Kiwi backs Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi and Rua Tipoki helped land a second Heineken Cup against Toulouse in a warriors' final. Warren Gatland, a New Zealander, masterminded Wales's second Grand Slam in four years. The dancing Shane Williams was the world's best player – Strictly beckons.

The continental drift of players to a lucky few, rich northern- hemisphere clubs had the IRB pondering ways to make internationals more meaningful. But the huge numbers of fans suggested they found both club and country meaningful enough.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy