Wrap up of 2012 rugby highlights from on and off the field

Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams pose for a photograph during a press conference at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on November 26, 2012 in Brisbane, Australia.
Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams pose for a photograph during a press conference at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on November 26, 2012 in Brisbane, Australia. Chris Hyde / Getty Images

IT was another huge year for Rugby in 2012, and not all the news happened on the field.

Phil Dillon  takes a look at the top 10 stories.

1. Quade Cooper's Wallabies fallout

Cooper was hoping to come back in style after his World Cup nightmare in 2011, but more knee problems ruled him out of much of the Super Rugby season, then the inaugural Rugby Championship.

He also let rip at Robbie Deans, calling the Wallabies environment "toxic".

He was fined $40,000 for that outburst, then he decided to quit the game - after receiving a lower-than-expected salary offer from ARU - to take up boxing.

He makes his debut in the ring in February on the undercard of good mate Sonny Bill Williams.

2. Nathan Sharpe quits rugby

Sharpe's last game could hardly have gone any better with Kurtley Beale scoring a last-minute try to send the 34-year-old out a winner against Wales in Cardiff.

Sharpe almost rounded off his last and 116th game for the Wallabies in style, but just missed the conversion from the touchline.

3. Scott Higginbotham's assault on Richie McCaw

The Wallabies flanker was banned for two games for roughing up All Blacks captain Richie McCaw in a Test match in Brisbane.

Higginbotham first kneed McCaw in the head and followed up with a headbutt.

His exemplary record saved him from a longer spell on the sidelines, but he still missed the first half of the Spring Tour to Europe.

4. Wallabies draw with All Blacks

The All Blacks were going for a record 17th straight Test win in Bledisloe III in Brisbane, but Kiwi-turned-Australian Mike Harris was the hero, kicking six penalty goals as the Wallabies drew 18-l8 with the world champions.

In a nail-biting finish All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter narrowly missed a match-winning field goal four minutes after the hooter sounded.

5. The Wallabies captain's curse

Whoever was Wallabies captain in 2012 did not have much luck (other than Nathan Sharpe).

First it was James Horwill who went down with a hamstring injury, then David Pocock was scuppered by a knee problem which also struck down Will Genia.

Sharpe postponed his retirement to fill the breach and thankfully got through unscathed.

6. Chiefs win Super Rugby title

Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams were the stars as the Chiefs won their first Super Rugby title.

After finishing an unlucky second in the home and away matches, the Chiefs were far too good for the Sharks in the final in Hamilton, winning 37-6.

Williams scored a try and set up another, while Cruden scored 17 points.

7. Israel Folau code hops again

Nobody was expecting it, but after deciding to quit AFL and the GWS Giants, former league star Israel Folau made the choice to switch to rugby.

He chose a one-year contract with the NSW Waratahs as his next mission, potentially putting himself in the running for the 2016 Olympics where sevens rugby has been included on the program.

But who knows what he could be doing by then.

8. Michael Foley quits Waratahs, joins Force

The Waratahs finished with four wins and 12 losses in their worst ever Super Rugby season.

It was perhaps no surprise that coach Michael Foley quit - what was a surprise was that an internal review found Foley was not responsible for the disastrous season.

Not long afterwards he quit to take up the head coaching role with the Western Force, left vacant when Richard Graham stepped down mid-year to join the Reds.

9. Robbie Deans' rollercoaster year

To say 2012 has been an up-and-down year for Wallabies coach Robbie Deans would be an understatement.

Calls for his head grew after a 9-6 loss to Scotland, but he gained a reprieve with three narrow wins against Wales in June.

Some below-par performances followed in the Rugby Championship and the knives were out with that woeful 33-6 defeat in Paris against the French.

But once more Deans bounced back with wins over England, Italy and Wales.


10. All Blacks losing to England

After being defeated by Australia and South Africa on home soil, England was not expected to trouble the World No.1 side.

But England ended world champion New Zealand's 20-match unbeaten run with a stunning 38-21 victory at Twickenham.

The All Blacks were still named Team of the Year.

Topics:  all blacks israel folau quade cooper robbie deans rugby union super rugby wallabies waratahs

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