2005 has been another interesting year in rugby union. The All Blacks have been almost unbeatable, the Lions were a huge disappointment and the autumn saw a series of intriguing internationals where England began show signs of resurgence. Dewi Morris picks his highlights of the year.
International Team of the year?
The All Blacks by a country mile. They won the Tri Nations, whitewashed the British and Irish Lions and the completed a Grand Slam tour. Huge credit must be given to Graham Henry and his coaching team for their year and for, quite simply, what amounted to a devastation of the Lions.
They completed their autumn Grand Slam with two teams and if they don't win the World Cup in 2007, I will be amazed. France and South Africa will be strong, but on 2005 form I can't see past the All Blacks.
They play an attractive style of rugby and I love watching them, but they can play it tight when needed. They have 30 players gifted with pace, power and passion and have been a joy to watch.
Which clubs have you enjoyed watching most this year?
I have to Sale Sharks but not because I used to play for them. They have moved up a gear this year and I have been particularly impressed with the improvements in the fitness, which is outstanding.
So far in the 2005-06 season they have dealt with the loss of players to international call-up of kept winning. They have a great chance of winning the Premiership this season.
They are a bit of throw back to the 'good old days'. They are a blend of a good bunch of lads with the amateur ethos mixed in with professional era fitness and conditioning. Like the All Blacks they can play both games when necessary, and the managerial duo of Philippe Saint Andre and Kingsley Jones is working well.
Credit must be given to owner Brian Kennedy for sticking it out with Sale and turning the Sharks into one of the most outstanding sides to watch in England and Europe.
Who has been the best player on the world stage this year?
Everyone will pick Daniel Carter, and I couldn't disagree with them. He has been key to all they have done this year. Yes, they are good side, but you need a good fly-half and he is a sensational player. He is never fazed by what is going on around him and can do every part of the job required at stand-off.
Notable mentions this year should also go to South African winger Bryan Habana who is raw pace. He has the best pair of wheels I have ever seen for a very long time!
And also to George Gregan who plays in my old position of scrum-half. He has become the world's most capped player and is still playing great rugby. Her gets flak from the media but it isn't his fault his team can't scrummage. Anyone who can get that many caps, and play some of the best rugby of his life, deserves praise.
And who was the best new face in rugby in 2005?
Shaun Perry at Bristol. I agree with my old mate Richard Hill that there are no better exponents of No. 9 than Perry. He should be next in line for the England scrum-half berth and now Harry Ellis has picked up an injury maybe he will get a chance.
Matt Dawson is 33 now and I ask whether he has still got the snap and desire required? We will need a world class half back in 2007 and my hope is that Perry will be given a chance to prove he should be there.
Which has been the most compelling tournament in 2005?
Perversely I enjoyed the Lions tour; because of the way the All Blacks played, because of all the hype, because of how Sir Clive Woodward got it drastically wrong and taking that buffoon of spin doctor.
I love the country and the people are brilliant. It was a joy to be in a rugby mad country with a team playing so well. Sadly it wasn't the Lions.
I love the Heineken Cup too because you are here, there and everywhere, one day Biarritz, the next in Limerick and then to Cardiff or Edinburgh. There is a vibrant diversity of grounds and supporters and occasionally you witness a great, exhilarating game.
It is nice to see some flair after what is often served up in the Premiership. Most of it is supplied by Toulouse and the other French sides but Wasps and Sale have carried the torch for the English clubs.
What has been the biggest disappointment in rugby this year?
I could say the Lions performance but we have done that already so I will say Andy Robinson's lack of vision and resistance to trying new players, especially in the Samoa game this autumn.
He needs to do what he says he is going to do - pick on form, not on the past. Mike Tindall has been a great servant to England but he has to go. We need to see Stuart Abbott, Ollie Smith or James Simpson-Daniel. The 6 Nations has to be a calling card for the youngsters.
Anyone can see we will always have a massive pack to win plenty of ball. It is about time we had flair and invention behind the scrum. We have missed a trick by not blooding a few guys in that back line. I hope Robinson does just that in the 6 Nations, if not we have no chance of winning the World Cup in 2007 and our chances are very slim already.
How would you sum up the year for the home nations?
Ireland: It has been a very disappointing year for Ireland. Eddie O'Sullivan is too set in his ways. He needs to change things around and find a more creative fly-half.
Wales: 2005 is their Grand Slam year so it will be remembered as a great one. The end of the year has proven that they do lack strength in depth, but they remain an interesting side to watch. A few injuries to key players up front and they can't win the ball. But when they are at full strength they are a lovely side to watch. If only England could play with some of the Welsh flair.
Scotland: It has been a better year for Scotland and I think Frank Haddon will do a great job with them. It was a mistake to appoint the Australian Matt Williams as coach and I think Haddon will do the best possible job with limited resources. It is the lack of depth in playing resources that hinders the Scots.
How do you see the 6 Nations going in 2006?
I am confident in the first two and the bottom two and we will wait and see what happens in the middle.
What should Andy Robinson have been hoping for in his Christmas stocking?
A mirror, so he can have a look at his face and say: "I will do it my way!" He wants to have the courage of his convictions to pick players on form and play inventive and adventurous rugby.
Forget the old guard and the Woodward way, pick on form and go for it! Look at the Heineken Cup and the Guinness Premiership and pick the guys who are doing well.
Few England fans will mind if a bold and exciting team goes out in the 6 Nations and loses a few games if we play some attractive rugby. They will mind if they see the same old faces playing the same, tired old rugby.
Is there a young player we should look out for next season?
Tom Varndell at Leicester.
He has been criticised defensively but give him space and he will hurt you. He is a good all round footballer and has the one asset you can't coach, absolute pace. He has the potential to be a phenomenal rugby player and maybe Andy Robison needs gives him a go as soon as possible.