This Friday sees the start of the Guinness Pro12 and the Aviva Premiership season and I do have a fairly small wishlist of things that I REALLY want to see in the season ahead
1. A season to shout-out about Scottish Rugby
It's not been a great few years as a Scotland fan. Heavy defeats at home and away, some pretty abject performances, a first ever failure to qualify out of the group stages of a World Cup, a real lack of continuity in selection and generally just a continued disillusionment with the SRU which has, if we're honest, left Scotland as a bit of joke on the international stage. What do I want to see from the season ahead? I want Vern Cotter to really get his hands on this team and pick a side that he thinks can win every match it goes into. With just over a year to the World Cup in England this really isn't the time to change your side every couple of games.
Away from the internationals Glasgow Warriors have really started to build something as a club. They've got a great set-up, a strong squad and in Gregor Townsend, a young head coach who may well develop into a fantastic head coach of the Scotland team. Hopefully they can go one better than their defeat in the Pro12 Final at the hands of Leinster last season and can really start to make waves in Europe.
As far as Edinburgh are concerned? Well anything is better than the last few seasons isn't it? Not expecting them to suddenly challenge at the top end of the Pro12 but let's see if they can at least provide a challenge to even the top teams in that league.
2. France PLEASE get your act together
Seriously France? What's been going on? I doubt many French fans would have expected to look back on the Laporte years or heck even the Lièvremont years with a tinge of nostalgia but considering some of the results and performances under Philippe Saint-André...
The Top 14 is the most financially powerful league in world rugby but if some people are to be believed that has created problems for the national team. With the amount of money going around, clubs are more willing to spend money on overseas players and focus on a pretty negative and forward-orientated style of play. Of course you can certainly argue that it's not the job of the clubs to produce players for the national team. Their job is to win matches in the Top 14 and in Europe.
And it's not that Saint-André lacks for talented players to pick from. Everybody knows how good the likes Thierry Dusautoir, Maxime Medard, Louis Picamoles, Gael Fickou, Thomas Domingo, Wesley Fofana and many others are but for some reason we haven't seen a French side for a number of years that puts in consistently strong performances that you feel would threaten the very best teams in the world. There have been matches where you felt that maybe, just maybe they'd turned a corner but sadly that notion would be dissuaded a game or two later. As someone who wants Northern Hemisphere rugby to be strong I want to see the return of a strong French team to the international stage.
3. Northern Hemisphere contenders for the the World Cup
In some ways this follows on from my last point but considering the hegemony the Sanzar Nations have had on world rugby throughout the professional era (barring England's 2000-2003 golden era) it would be nice to have genuine Northern Hemisphere contenders for the World Cup in 2015. England under Stuart Lancaster seem to be building something special (though we've been saying that for over two years now) but they haven't got a Six Nations title or currently a consistent record against the Sanzar nations. Yet they have provided moments and performances that suggest they could challenge in the long run or if the stars align next year.
Ireland and Wales have the Six Nations titles to their names but again while both have pushed the big Southern Hemisphere three close in recent years, their wins are few and far between (and for Wales it's been a long time coming). The real worry for both sides is a lack of strength in depth. While both sides have strong main XVs that can provide a challenge for anyone it's when they get to the second and third string players where they struggle.
France? Well fingers crossed. Scotland and Italy? I'm a pretty optimistic person but I'm not THAT optimistic.
4. A Welsh Rugby season free from infighting
I know I wasn't the only person to breathe a sigh of relief when the news came through last week of the peace deal in Welsh rugby. It's been an ongoing saga with neither side seemingly willing to come to a compromise and you only needed to see some of the vitriol on twitter to realise how much damage it was doing to Welsh rugby.
This whole sorry tale has caused lasting damage with people in both camps unlikely to ever trust either the WRU or the Regions again, but if this deal can lead to a turn in fortune not only for the Regions but also at the grassroots level then I'm sure it will only make the national team even stronger. It's probably too much to ask but it would be good to have a season where infighting takes a back seat to the action on the pitch.
5. Don't nullify attacking talent
Bit of an obvious one really but considering the retirement this week of James Simpson-Daniel and retirement over the summer of Iain Balshaw it seemed as good a time as any to just ask that we don't see great attacking talents being nullified by rigid coaching in the Northern Hemisphere. There's a reason why it's been a delight to see Matthew Morgan's emergence over the last couple of seasons. He's a small guy with bag load of talent and he's a nice change to the huge and often unsubtle power runners we're so used to seeing these days.
What's on your wishlist for the season ahead? Comment below or on twitter, facebook and any other social networking sites you've decided to inhabit.