Five hopes for rugby in 2020

Steve Diamond has high hopes for his Sale Sharks side this season

Now we're over a week into 2020, TRUs Joe Harvey has listed five of the things that he would like to see happen in rugby over this year. 

Chiefs do SOMETHING in Europe

With 19 points in Pool 2, Exeter have actually had a strong opening few rounds to their European campaign as BetRivers group favourites. Having beaten La Rochelle, Glasgow and Sale to gain a commanding lead in their group, Rob Baxter’s men look set to progress from the pool, something that has proven difficult in recent years.

With such quality across the park, and in their depth too, many have been waiting for Exeter to spark into life on the continent for some time. Now, with Saracens likely prioritising league survival as opposed to another European crown, this is the perfect time for Exeter to make a tilt for Marseille.

It could probably be argued that the arrival of Stuart Hogg to Devon has been a big reason for improved European performances and now with Johnny Gray on his way to the Chiefs, Exeter will only be getting better and could even have a Heineken Cup in their trophy cabinet come this summer.

Sale can become the northern powerhouse

Now, it is fair to say that writing this cuts me a bit. As a lifelong Newcastle Falcons supporter, I would really love for the club to take the mantel as the biggest northern club in England. The reality is, several years of instability means that Sale have the opportunity to establish themselves as the place to be for young rugby players north of Warwickshire.

With a huge catchment area for potential local players and fans to come from, it is truly astonishing that the AJ Bell doesn’t sell out every home game. With so many of the senior players having roots in domestic club rugby in the surrounding areas, Sale really is a club that represents their fans extremely well and can hopefully become a real force in the north.

All but out of Europe, Sharks are placed fourth in the Premiership table as things stand and are hopeful of making the play-offs this season, with Director of Rugby Steve Diamond not wanting to return to mediocrity any time soon with this superstar squad.

France perform at the Six Nations… for more than 40 minutes

France last won the Six Nations in 2010. 2010. That is a long time. Now with an entirely new coaching set-up with Fabien Galthie at the helm, he has brought in the likes of Shaun Edwards as defence coach and Laurent Labin as attack coach.

Yesterday the new Head Coach announced his first squad, with 19 uncapped players called up to the national set-up. Toulon’s Charles Ollivon has been named as captain with many experienced names out in the cold.

What this does mean is that France may not have the experience to be overly competitive this Six Nations, but hopefully there can be at least one fixture in which an immensely talented group of players can topple one of the tournaments strongest teams.

Can we actually sort out ring-fencing?

The argument around ring-fencing has been rumbling on for nearly two years. Whether you like the idea of ring-fencing or not, a decision has to be made so that everyone can prepare for the future, no matter what it may be.

Fundamentally, there would be more money in the top division if the Premiership was ring-fenced, but the excitement and headlines about relegation escapes would be over, but the games would still rumble on.

It really is difficult to say exactly what would happen if ring-fencing occurred. Would Falcons and another Championship side be automatically promoted and the country divided into north and south? So many questions to be answered and so many that are yet to be asked. Maybe 2020 will be the year they are answered.

Finally admit it’s okay not to be okay

In recent months, Talking Rugby Union has collaborated with mental health charity Looseheadz to try and spread the message of why being able to talk to someone about how you are feeling is so important.

Personally, the importance of mental health charities was highlighted even more following the tragic death of National Two North and Scunthorpe player James Walker. At the age of 23, James was barely two years older than myself and has now prompted me to talk more openly about how I feel with loved ones.

This isn’t even a rugby message. This is one for life. You will never be the only person feeling low and if you don’t talk about your emotions with a trained professional, a friend or a family member, those feelings could fester and simply get worse.

It’s okay not to be okay and there is always someone to talk to.