It has been a busy year for fans of men’s rugby with Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification reaching its climax, following RWC Sevens 2022 and the return of a full HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Once again those watching on in stadiums around the world or from home have been treated to 12 months of thrills and spills.
As 2022 draws to a close, we take a look at some of the main records that fell over the past year.
FRANCE ENJOY PERFECT 2022
In Toulouse last month, France beat Japan 35-17 to become only the third established men’s nation in the professional era – after New Zealand in 2013 and England in 2016 – to achieve a perfect season.
Having kicked off 2022 with a Six Nations Grand Slam, Fabien Galthié’s side won two tests in Japan in July before beating Australia, South Africa and the Brave Blossoms again on home soil in November.
Their unbeaten run now stands at 13 matches, only five wins short of the men’s test record of 18.
BARNES SETS NEW REFEREEING RECORD
Wayne Barnes set a new record on 12 November when he officiated his 101st men’s test match, France beating South Africa 30-26 in Marseille.
Seven days previously the Englishman had become only the second match official to take charge of a century of tests when he refereed Wales’ defeat to New Zealand.
Barnes then overtook Nigel Owens, who retired in 2020, when he took the whistle at Stade Vélodrome – 16 and a half years after his first, a 23-20 win for Fiji against Samoa in Suva.
CENTURION CLUB EXPANDS
Barnes was not the only man to rack up a century of appearances in tests this year. In total, 10 players joined the 100-cap club over the past 12 months.
Three Welshmen, Dan Biggar, Jonathan Davies and Taulupe Faletau, became centurions in 2022, as did two Romanians, Florin Surugiu and Mihai Macovei.
Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray, Georgia winger Alexander Todua, Springbok second-row Eben Etzebeth, England forward Courtney Lawes and All Blacks second-row Brodie Retallick also reached the milestone this year.
VIDELA KICKS CHILE TO FIRST RUGBY WORLD CUP
Chile ended Canada’s Rugby World Cup 2023 hopes last year and they had USA in their sights as they prepared for July’s two-legged Americas 2 play-off.
Los Cóndores had never previously qualified for a Rugby World Cup and it looked as though the play-off could be beyond them as they slipped to a slender 22-21 first-leg defeat to the men’s Eagles in Santiago.
However, Chile and their goal-kicking winger Santiago Videla had other ideas and his 75th minute penalty in Glendale ultimately secured a 31-29 victory that gave the visitors a 52-51 aggregate win and sent them to France.
AUSTRALIA WIN FIRST MEN’S SERIES TITLE
History was also made in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 as Australia emerged from a thrilling finale to win their first ever men’s title.
Having won the penultimate tournament in London, Australia were one of four teams who went into the final event of the season in Los Angeles with a shot at the crown.
A third-place finish was enough to give them the title by two points from South Africa. Dietrich Roache ended the season as the 2022 Series top scorer with 343 points, while only Ireland’s Terry Kennedy (50) scored more tries than Corey Toole’s 43.
FIJI WIN JOINT-RECORD THIRD RWC SEVENS TITLE
Fiji won their first Rugby World Cup Sevens outside of Hong Kong to draw level with New Zealand with three titles.
It was fitting that it was the All Blacks Sevens who Fiji beat in the final in Cape Town in September, running in five tries to confirm a 29-12 victory. Fiji’s previous two RWC Sevens titles both came at Hong Kong Stadium, in 1997 and 2005.
England and Wales are the only nations other than Fiji and New Zealand to lift the famous trophy.