Firstly, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, I hope Santa filled your stockings with all the goodies you need, and a few Lynx Africa box sets as an added bonus!
Secondly, yes, I know I haven't done my weekly Premiership round up for a couple of weeks, but with the whole festive period thing, I've not actually managed to do a whole lot of rugby watching, so it's tough to do a round up from the highlights program. Hopefully it will be back after the next round of matches!
So, thirdly, and onto the point of this blog, my predictions for 2018. How serious some of them are, I'll leave up to you to judge, but here we go!
Exeter run away and top the table in the 17/18 season, before succumbing to resurgent Saracens in the Premiership final. Saracens league form turns around at the same time they are eliminated from Europe and really gathered speed post 6 nations, and they prove too much for Wasps in the semi and pip Exeter in a high scoring but close final at Twickenham. Bath pip Gloucester to 4th on the final day of the season, with Falcons, Quins and Tigers all in hot pursuit.
Scarlets, Glasgow, Munster and Leinster make the final 4, with Leinster taking the showpiece title. That's not the big news though, that comes at the end of the season, as the announcement is made that the Pro
12 erm 14 erm.... becomes the Pro 18 with the addition of teams from emerging nations like Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Bermuda and Swindon, before growing by 2 teams every season up until 2050 (incidentally, the same year Peter Stringer will eventually retire!)
The French Leagues
The 17/18 season will be announced that it is the final in the current format, with the top flight instead being replaced by a series of Harlem Globetrotters or All Star Game style exhibition matches laden with the international stars that are shipping their way over. The next 3 league tiers decide to self finance through their presence on social media, and forget about rugby, instead just hosting a full season of 15 a side fights, sponsored by RugbyLAD and Ruck.co.uk.
Clermont win the final season of actual rugby in France, doubled up with the European Cup.
The Six Nations
Italy stun the world by securing their first ever grand slam.
Yeah, even as a joke, I wouldn't go that far.
England and Ireland will be favourites to take the crown, although Scotland once again go into the 6 Nations with the media hype behind them, Wales seem like they'll be depleted through injuries, and France appear to be in a spot of internal strife once more, Italy are just.... Italy.
The key match for me will be England vs Ireland at Twickenham, I think it'll be the decider. Scotland may well take England's scalp at Murrayfield, but with trips to Cardiff and Dublin, i think there are a pair of losses right there for Scotland
I'll go for a final table of :-
Of course post tournament, we'll be told England are cheats and that Georgia deserve to be in rather than Italy, and Facebook comment sections will be full of jingoistic vitriol. Happy days.
In other news
The long awaited England vs New Zealand clash in the Autumn disappoints as a contest as New Zealand win by 30 points following an early red card that leaves Jonny May playing at flanker. Also hindering England was Dylan Hartley's meltdown that leaves the referee no option but to call in a SWAT team.
Nigel Owens referee's an entire match without creating a brand new viral video or soundbite. Appalled at this, he is immediately struck off by World Rugby
Jonathan Davies spontaneously combusts live on air as Wales create a 6 man overlap with George North the last man, not knowing whether to scream WIIIIIIIIIIDE or just shout Norths name, he bursts into flames.
The biggest transfer news comes as Rieko Ioane is tipped for a move to Europe and Wasps aren't linked with him.