As the clock ticks down towards New Year’s Eve, it is only natural that thoughts drift towards the action-packed 12 months of international rugby that awaits in 2022.

Whether you’re a fan of the fast-paced action offered by sevens, enjoy a test match tussle, or like us, live for both, there is plenty on the horizon to sate your appetite for the oval ball.

Following sevens’ hugely impactful appearance at the Tokyo Olympic Games, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 has already begun with a bang.

Fiji and New Zealand took home men’s and women’s gold from Tokyo, but it is South Africa and Australia who have set the pace at the start of the 2022 Series.

Both the Blitzboks and Australia, gold medallists when rugby returned to the Olympics at Rio 2016, secured back-to-back tournament victories as the season got under way at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai.

South Africa’s men and Australia’s women will now hope to maintain their momentum when the Series visits two new locations in January.

Malaga and Seville will host combined events on consecutive weekends at the end of the month, before the men’s Series heads to Vancouver in February. The next women’s tournament after Seville will be held in Langford in April.

Australia will hope they can hold on for a third Series title as the women’s season ends at the combined event in Toulouse between 20-22 May. The men will then travel to London, where the Series winner will be crowned.

From Coventry to Cape Town

But that won’t be the end of the year’s sevens action, far from it. Attention will remain in England in July, moving north towards Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games 2022.

New Zealand claimed gold in both the men’s and women’s tournaments on Australia’s Gold Coast four years ago but will face stiff opposition from the likes of Fiji, Australia and the hosts, among others, in Birmingham.

It remains to be seen whether the men’s or women’s gold medallists remain in the hunt for a unique calendar hat-trick of Series, Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens titles when they leave Coventry Stadium.

RWC Sevens 2022, the shorter format’s showpiece event, will take place at the picturesque Cape Town Stadium, in the shadow of Table Mountain, between 9-11 September.

Following three days of intense action in San Francisco four years ago, it was New Zealand who came out on top in both the men’s and women’s tournaments – beating England and France respectively in the finals.

Michaela Blyde, Tyla Nathan-Wong and Portia Woodman all starred for the Black Ferns Sevens at AT&T Park and played a pivotal role in the team’s Olympic success in Tokyo in 2021. They will hope to add another title to their bulging collection in South Africa next September.

RWC 2021 headlines 15s year

Woodman may well have designs on completing a second Rugby World Cup double, having featured in three of the Black Ferns’ four tests in England and France in October and November.

The 30-year-old scored 13 tries as the Black Ferns won RWC 2017 in Ireland and could spearhead the defending champions’ charge for a sixth women’s Rugby World Cup title when New Zealand host the tournament in October and November.

But before the party can get under way at Eden Park, four teams must compete to secure the last remaining ticket to New Zealand at the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament.

Colombia, Samoa, Scotland and the winner of the play-off between Hong Kong and Kazakhstan will meet at The Sevens Stadium between 19-25 February to decide who will become the 12th team to qualify.

Win or lose in Dubai, Scotland will return to Europe to compete in the Women’s Six Nations 2022 in March and April. England will head into the tournament as favourites, having stretched their winning run to 18 matches in November.

That impressive form helped Zoe Aldcroft become World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year 2021 in association with Mastercard and Simon Middleton scoop Coach of the Year.

By the time the women’s event kicks off, the identity of the men’s Six Nations 2022 champions will already be known.

Wales head into the Championship as title holders but face stiff competition from France and Ireland – who both beat the All Blacks in November – RWC 2019 finalists England and the resurgent Scotland.

Each of those nations are already assured of their place at RWC 2023 in France, but elsewhere in the world of 15s qualification for the quadrennial tournament continues.

Georgia look well placed to secure their place at a sixth successive Rugby World Cup. The Lelos lead by 10 points at the halfway stage of qualifying through the Rugby Europe Championship, while Romania, Portugal, Spain and Russia remain in the hunt.

Qualification should also be decided in Africa and Asia next year, while the USA will meet Chile, who upset Canada in October, to decide who takes their place as Americas 2 in Pool D alongside England, Japan, Argentina and Samoa.

With all that and much, much more to look forward to in 2022, you’ll want to mark your calendars now to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the fun.

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