Big name manager departures, big name manager returns, upsets, retirements, record crowds, epic finishes and the desperate demise of two famous clubs.
The 2022-23 season was unlike any other.
And there’s more to come – the Premier 15 is set for a spectacular finale, with the final on the BBC on 24 June.
But in their final episode before the summer break, Rugby Union Weekly team up with former England and Lions player Ugo Monye, Premiership record goalscorer Chris Ashton, Harlequins scrum-half and England Danny Care and the BBC’s rugby correspondent Chris Jones, He looked back at the season that was and made some early World Cup predictions.
Best moment of the season?
Danny Care: It will have to be this man to my left [the retiring Ashton], who scored the perfect hat-trick to claim his 100th Premiership try. I am very proud of him. He’s worked hard, he’s been penalized a lot, but he’s had an incredible run and the game will be a sadder place without him.
Ugo Monye: A little bit of [Newcastle winger] Matteo Carreras’ solo tries were sensational, Owen Farrell’s drop goal against Gloucester was also special, while France v Ireland was a crazy game in the Six Nations. A word also for Duhan van der Merwe’s try against England.
Chris Jones: The Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand between the Black Ferns and the Red Roses was a special game and a special finish. Then, at the end of April, 60,000 at Twickenham for the Red Roses. That game and the Champions League final were my two favorite memories of the season.
Chris Ashton: The Champions League final was fantastic. The atmosphere of it all, and the way the game went with La Rochelle coming from 17-0, with Ronan O’Gara as coach.
Worst moment of the season?
Jones: The worst – by some distance – was losing two clubs, and it could be three Irish London on the clock. But I think in the next five years we will see a complete reassessment of how professional rugby works.
Monkeys: I would like to see the salary cap change, with your ability to spend money based on your profitability. Someone like Leicester Tigers, who have the biggest gate in the Premiership, should be able to spend based on what they bring. It should be based on what you can afford, with a minimum operating standard. But you still need financial regulation.
Clash of the season?
Jones: Remember those two upsets in the autumn, with Georgia beating Cardiff and Argentina beating Twickenham. Two results that had a huge impact, with Eddie Jones and Wayne Pivac sacked soon after.
ashton: In this sense, Warren Gatland returns to Wales [was a shock]. I wonder if he even knew it was coming? It’s risky to go back when you’ve had so much success. What if it doesn’t end well?
On the pitch v off the pitch…
Cure: On the pitch, the game is still in good shape. Off the field, the game needs to figure out how it can be run better and more sustainably. I think the men and women support it on the pitch and try to produce a great product, but off the pitch it needs some work. But there are exciting moments ahead, the World Cup will be mega.
Who is winning the World Cup?
Cure: For me it is between France, South Africa and England.
ashton: South Africa is the team to beat.
Monkeys: I agree, South Africa. His game has improved significantly over the past year. However, for the first time New Zealand go into a World Cup as slight underdogs, which never really happens, and that’s dangerous.
Cure: Ireland will have something to say about that!
ashton: Ireland went to the quarters…
Monkeys: This Leinster defeat has changed the way people see Ireland’s chances…
Cure: We can’t leave Ireland out because Leinster lost to La Rochelle by a point! how crazy is that
Jones: However, to say that Ireland could be knocked out in the quarter-finals is no insult. They have a huge world hoodoo to overcome, and will play New Zealand or France in the last 16, if they even get there, because Scotland will mean business.
Cure: England will be in the semi-finals, and then you’re only two games away.
Jones: There’s a chance there could be a surprise finalist on this side of the draw, because it’s so heavily biased.
And finally… the best podcast guest of the season?
Monkeys: I loved sitting with Finn Russell during the Six Nations and Dan Biggar during the autumn. It was also excellent to have all four directors of rugby in one room before the Premiership semi-finals, chatting to each other and having a laugh.
Cure: Who was better Finn or Dan?!
Monkeys: They were different!