As we bid farewell to 2012 and greet 2013 I have been thinking about what the New Year will bring. Here are my predictions which I will look back on at the end of the season to see how close I was.
The main event of 2013 is the Lions Tour to Australia and I can’t see any other result than a Lions win. The Aussies are nothing like as strong as they have been and the best of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland will come away with their first series victory since South Africa in 1997. I would love to see Jonny Wilkinson selected for the tour for his swansong, but I fear that Toulon’s success will mean that he will have to play for them when the Lions start their itinerary.
The Six Nations will be won by France who will have just a bit too much experience for an ever-improving England. Wales have too many of their key players unavailable through injury, while Ireland are trying to rebuild. Scotland will struggle.
I don’t watch enough Premiership games to give a considered view, but logic dictates that the title will be between Harlequins, Saracens and Leicester.
Closer to home, it looks like Cambridge will be relegated from National Division One. Already 18 points from safety they will lose a further five points for fielding an unregistered player and although I was hoping that they could show the rugby world that an amateur club could compete at Level 3, sadly that is not to be. On the positive side they can look forward to two tremendous derby games against Shelford who will finish comfortably in the top half of National Division Two South.
Bury St Edmunds look unstoppable in their quest for promotion to National Three London & South East, despite a couple of wobbly moments in recent games. Colchester are in with a chance of a second successive play-off place, although much will depend on the outcome of their first two games of the New Year against Diss and Bury.
North Walsham will to return to London One and there is every chance that Ipswich will join them. Ipswich have been in the doldrums for several seasons but they put together a string of good wins and should reach the play-off as long as they beat Chelmsford away at the end of January. Lowestoft & Yarmouth and Stowmarket are flirting with the relegation zone, but both clubs have enough talent to comfortably avoid the drop.
London Three North East is very close with seven points separating the top six sides, with Norwich, Beccles and Cantabrigian all in the mix. My feeling is that Norwich will be the club to show the better consistency to take one of the two promotion places with Beccles and Cantabs just missing out. At the other end of the table it is equally close. East London are doomed but there are just two points between the next four clubs which include Wisbech and Sudbury. Wiisbech’s form has been miserable of late while the very young Sudbury side have found it difficult to string wins together, but I think they will both survive – just!
In Eastern Counties One Wymondham are top having won their last nine games and should do enough to get promoted as champions to the London Leagues. Ipswich YM are second and Ely third and the play-off place will probably be decided when they play each other 26 January. However, Crusaders are the dark horses and may spring a surprise on them both. Thurston prop up the table and look like going down, to be joined by Southwold whose form has taken a battering recently although Harwich & Dovercourt need to put a couple of wins together if they are to avoid the drop.
Swaffham have had an excellent season and will be worthy winners of Eastern Counties Two, and I can’t realistically see any team catching Broadland-Gt Yarmouth for the second promotion place.
The National Cup competitions all have Eastern Counties interest with North Walsham in the London semi-finals of the Intermediate Cup, but they have a tough draw away to Aylesford in Kent. Beccles and Cantabs play each other on the London semi-final of the Senior Vase while Wymondham have a home draw against Billericay in the London quarter finals of the Junior Vase. It would be great to see a local club go all the way to Twickenham.
I’m happy to be challenged on any or all of these predictions, but they are only my personal views. Let’s see how accurate these turn out to be. You are very welcome to post a reply with predictions of your own.
I hope that enjoy your rugby in 2013, be it as a supporter, player, volunteer, coach or referee, and at whatever level.