This being the time of year for picking favourite XVs, Ruck and Maul is happy to chip in with a team of the 2010-11 season.
And where others are poring over line-out statistics and metres made, here's a collection of allsorts from the Aviva Premiership we think anyone would part with a few quid to watch. They have entertained us on the pitch and with their views and stories in these pages too.
The Independent on Sunday XV 2010-11: Ben Foden; Chris Ashton (both Northampton), James Simpson-Daniel, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Charlie Sharples (all Gloucester); Nick Evans (Harlequins), Lee Dickson; Soane Tonga'uiha (both Northampton), Schalk Brits (Saracens), Chris Budgen (Exeter), Simon Shaw (Wasps), Tom Hayes (Exeter, captain), Tom Croft (Leicester), Andy Saull (Saracens), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester). Replacements: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Gavin Henson (ex Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester), David Flatman (Bath), Boris Stankovich (Leicester), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Tom Johnson (Exeter), Andy Powell (ex-Wasps).
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It may be an artificial kind of excitement, but you cannot beat semi-finals and finals for drama.
Witness the frantic last minute at Worcester last Sunday, when the season-long leaders of the Championship nearly blew their promotion against Bedford. An illegal tackle on Bedford's Gregor Gillanders helped Kai Horstmann score Worcester's crucial try but everyone knows the nature of knockout rugby is that one trick missed by a referee can ruin a season.
The two-legged final takes Worcester to Penzance to face Cornish Pirates on Wednesday, with the return at Sixways a week later. During the league campaign each team won their away match with an aggregate score of 54-53 to Worcester.
It was no surprise to hear Jonah Lomu, who came to world prominence at the Hong Kong Sevens of 1994, praising the shortened game while working for the IRB. But the former All Black's words added to the swell behind sevens as its admission to the Olympic Games in 2016 draws closer.
"Sevens is what's going to open it [rugby] up to the world," said Lomu.
"You've got the fastest players on the planet, the most skilful players and it's all done and dusted in 14 minutes. The attention span of a lot of people is 30 minutes."
Lomu's fellow former NZ wing John Kirwan – now the Japan coach – predicted China and Sri Lanka would be forces in the game before long. England and the rest of the old guard: watch out.
A load of hot air
Northampton were miffed at playing three matches in nine days recently, due to the postponement of their Boxing Day match at snowy Gloucester. We hear now that Premiership Rugby agree something must be done.
"At the next board meeting there is a proposal to increase the number of [the league's] hot-air blowers from two to four," said a spokesman. "The feeling is with other clubs using football grounds for undersoil heating four might be enough to keep games on over the winter."
Saints alive to ticket chances
Northampton's next problem is getting all their fans into the Heineken Cup final on Saturday week. The club's official ticket allocation is 7,500 in the 75,000-capacity Millennium Stadium.
Fast-fingered Saints fans were seen on their phones and hand-held computers booking tickets at half-time of the semi-final against Perpignan, when Saints led 20-7. They judged correctly that there would be no French comeback.Reuse content