2019 promises to be a huge year in terms of professional, international and university sport. As the term comes to an end and people head home for Christmas, our writers and AU Officer Maggie Elstob preview some of the most exciting sporting teams and events to keep an eye on in the coming year.
Rugby World Cup- Rebecca Johnson
The Rugby World Cup kicks off in September next year with hosts Japan taking on Russia in Tokyo. For next year’s World Cup, there are four pools consisting of five teams, with the winners and runners up of the pools progressing to the quarter-finals, then semi-finals and then the final in Yokohama on 2nd November.
The tournament will see not only the usual big dogs (England, South Africa, and New Zealand- that class of team) but “smaller” teams take their place on the world stage. Having beaten Canada in qualifying in 2017, the USA are in a difficult Pool C alongside England, France, Argentina and Tonga. However, the US are ranked 12th in the world, so they’ll be ones to watch out for, especially now as rugby is on the rise in the US. Additionally, another underdog is Namibia who are ranked 22nd in the world. Namibia qualified for the World Cup by beating Kenya in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup in August earlier this year. They are placed in Pool B alongside New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Canada.
After their misery and shambles in the last World Cup on home turf, England’s prospects aren’t looking as bad as last time. Although the English had a poor performance in the Six Nations earlier in the year, winning only two of their games in the competition. Since then, England have had a bit more success in the Quilter Internationals, with three wins and an incredibly narrow loss to the All Blacks.
Whilst this year’s World Cup promises to be a fantastic tournament of some brilliant teams in their prime battling it out, it is also important to see how “smaller” teams fare in this competition. The hosts Japan are just one example of a rugby team growing in stature making it a competition of mixed abilities, which isn’t necessarily a disadvantage.
Newcastle University American Football
As of the time of writing, the Newcastle University Raiders have only played one game in the regular season of BUCS American football but it was an important game against the Glasgow University Tigers to open the season. The Raiders earned their first win against Glasgow in six years after beating the Tigers by a narrow score of 22-21 having been down 7-2 at the halftime interval. Quarterback Henry Bulmer and wide receiver Charlie Spittal, a rookie who had two touchdowns on the night in his first ever start for the Raiders, earned MVP (Most Valuable Player) on offence while Matt Dyke and Joel Sandilands earned MVP honours for defence.
Their second game against Edinburgh Napier was postponed due to the field in Scotland being waterlogged with the game as yet unscheduled since then. The Raiders play the Hull University Tigers on Sunday the 9th of December before the season takes a break for Christmas and New Year.
The Raiders return to action next year on January 27th when they welcome the Glasgow Tigers in the return fixture in Newcastle. They also play local rivals Northumbria University twice alongside Edinburgh Napier and Hull over the course of February to complete their regular season commitments in the BUCS North 1A Division. If they have a successful regular season with a winning record, they will qualify for the Playoffs – a stage very familiar to those on the team from last year where they lost in the final to Coventry. This year, they will be hoping to go one better and gain promotion to the top tier of University-level American football.
Women's World Cup- Sesha Subramanian
2018 was all about France winning the FIFA World Cup in Russia but the next year will see France host a FIFA World Cup – this time for women. The tournament will feature 24 qualified teams, including hosts France and defending champions United States. Home advantage means France will enter the tournament as one of the favourites, especially with most of their players coming from two top European teams – Olympique Lyonnais and Paris St. Germain.
United States remains as strong as ever as most of their players play for clubs at home. They will be looking to key players like Carli Lloyd (who will be playing her last World Cup at age 36) to help them defend their title. Phil Neville will be coaching the Lionesses as they hope to go two better than their semi-final loss under Mark Sampson back in 2015. He has the luxury of having a good mix of experience and youth when he picks his team. Veterans like Stephanie Houghton and Lucy Bronze will almost surely be selected in the team and they will most likely be joined by talented players in their prime such as Toni Duggan and Alex Greenwood. Duggan’s Barcelona teammate Lieke Martens won the Golden Ball at the Women’s Euros in 2017 and will be looking to lead the Netherlands to a World Cup triumph to add to the success she enjoyed two years ago.
Reigning women’s player of the year Marta, at the age of 32, will finally look to add that one trophy that is missing from her cabinet. Having come close in 2007, losing to Germany in the final, she will look to take what is admittedly not the strongest Brazil team to the promised land, but will face a somewhat uphill task given the strength of the European sides. The World Cup will take place from 7th June, 2019 to 7th July 2019 across nine stadiums in France with the Parc Olympique Lyonnais playing host to the final while the Parc Des Princes in Paris hosts the opening game of the tournament.
ICC World Cup- Sesha Subramanian
Cricket’s biggest tournament returns to its home next summer as England and Wales get set to host the ICC Cricket World Cup from 30th of May 2019. England take on South Africa in the opening game at The Oval with both sides entering the tournament as contenders.
The tournament is going to be operating under a new format of a league followed by semi-finals and finals. Ten teams will contest the World Cup in which each team will play the other nine with the top four advancing to the semi-finals. The final will be played at Lord’s in London between the winners of the two semi-finals.
Apart from England and South Africa, India enter the tournament with a major shot at winning the title, although English conditions and their over-reliance on Virat Kohli could prove to be problematic. The other nations from the sub-continent - Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – are not major threats these days but they could still pose the occasional problem for bigger teams and may be able to pull off some surprise wins. Afghanistan, for example, was very impressive in the Asia Cup this year.
Between Australia and New Zealand, it is hard to say which of the two would be the better team and have a better shot at qualifying for the semi-finals. However as of this moment, New Zealand seem like a better bet compared to the defending champions. Some key matches to watch out for would be anything involving England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India but also some high-powered clashes like India against Pakistan. All in all, the new format ensures that a true World Champion is crowned at the end of the month-and-a-half long extravaganza.
Boobball Tournament- Maggie Elstob
This sees our Dodgeball Club and Newcastle Uni Boob Team join up for a fundraiser with a difference! On Friday 15th February 2019 dodgeballs are replaced with boobballs and a member of each team must wear a boob suit to play in. All proceeds go to CoppaFeel and anyone can enter a team. Make sure you get signed up!
BUCS Big Wednesday
The culmination of the team sport league programme sees the top universities fight it out on one massive day of sport on the 27th March 2019 in Nottingham. In 2018, Newcastle University was represented by Women’s Water-Polo in BUCS Big Wednesday at Nottingham, meeting fellow northern rivals Durham in the final. I’m sure we’ll see Newcastle teams in the final again in 2019!
The Big One
For those disappointed in the lack of varsity action this year, ‘The Big One’ might fill the gap! The rugby match took place for the first time in St James’ Park in March 2018 and will hopefully be returning in 2019. Newcastle and Northumbria Universities put their best teams out as a curtain raiser for the Newcastle Falcons vs Northampton Saints Premiership fixture last year, and hopefully something similar is in store for 2019!
The Boat Race in the North
A reduced version of the race took place in on the River Wear in 2018 due to bad weather, so fingers crossed 2019 will see its return to the Tyne and Newcastle retaining the trophy!
A Top 9 Finish
This looks to be within Newcastle’s sights this year after sliding into 9th position ahead of Cardiff in December. We haven’t seen 9th since the 2015/16 season so our teams need the support to bring home those BUCS points and keep us in 9th!