What a strange year 2020 was for rugby. We entered the year caught up in the scandal that was Saracens salary cap misdemeanours, blissfully unaware of the torrent of ill fortune we were soon to receive. However, despite some dire circumstances, we’ve seen some stellar rugby this year across the globe. This begs the question, whose performances warrant selection in 2020’s team of the year? The best hard-hitting tacklers, the jackaling fetchers, the big booted kickers, and the line-breaking, try-scoring wizards. Who cracks the fifteen? Today we’ll discuss our tight five.
Loosehead Prop: Rory Sutherland
2020 rolled around and Rory Sutherland was on the comeback trail. After suffering a career-threatening injury in 2017 and requiring major reconstructive surgery on his groin, Sutherland had spent the best part of 2 years out of action. Scotland coach Gregor Townsend named him in his squad for the Six Nations and the rest is history. For my money, there was not a better loosehead in that tournament and Sutherland went from a relative afterthought to playing himself into British and Irish Lions consideration amongst the likes of Ireland’s Cian Healy, and England’s Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler. Sutherland was also key in Edinburgh’s run to the semi finals of the Pro 14 and made many a bone shattering tackle and domineering scrummage along the way.
Hooker: Luke Cowan-Dickie
Luke Cowan-Dickie had a pretty good 2019 all-being said. Runner up in the Premiership, runner up in the World Cup and he had made England’s number 16 jersey all his own. This, however, was just the prelude for his coming out party as an international star. LCD added a Premiership title, Heineken Cup, Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup to his own personal list of achievements this year and, perhaps most crucially of all, he brought the hooker tap and go at the 5 metre in vogue again. Cannonball Dickie well and truly exploded this year, and will no doubt be on the plane to South Africa with the Lions should it ever leave the ground.
Tighthead Prop: Andrew Porter
Until this season, Andrew Porter played deputy to the world-class Taigh Furlong. That all changed when Furlong suffered an injury and the imposing Porter was thrust into Ireland’s number 3 jersey. Porter more than held his own during the Autumn Nations Cup, scrummaging, carrying, tackling, all the while proving that he has the potential to act as more than just a capable understudy to Taigh Furlong. He may not have had the sparkling success that some inclusions may have had on this list but 2020 was well and truly Andrew Porter’s year.
Lock: Jonny Hill
There is no way around it, Jonny Hill had a remarkable 2020. He was a lynchpin in Exeter Chiefs’ success this year and finished the year with four winners’ medals to his name, winning a Six Nations medal with England thanks to his part in their final game against Italy. His skill in creating turnovers as well as his ability as a battering ram with ball in hand make him an asset to any team. Hill’s meteoric rise from a Hartpury College walk on to now a regular England starter looks set to continue in the coming years and Eddie Jones will no doubt be keen to capitalise on his new rising star.
Lock: Sam Whitelock
All Black Sam Whitelock was as consistent as ever in 2020. While the All Blacks didn’t have a season for the history books (at least for the right reasons), Whitelock still impressed and looked head and shoulders above his peers at times when playing in the Super Rugby Aotearoa winning Crusaders side. In my mind, Sam Whitelock is probably the best lineout option in world rugby. He’s a fantastic leader, a looming physical presence and excellent in the tackle. He boasts a 93% tackle success rate and only conceded 2 penalties for the Crusaders throughout the entirety of 2020. Whitelock is undoubtedly one of the premiere lock forwards in the last calendar year.
Do you agree with our picks? Who would your tight 5 of 2020 be? Let us know in the comments below! Keep your eyes peeled for the back row and half backs coming soon!