Jeremy Guscott's 2013 review: stunning tries & pantomime villains
As we reach the end of a thrilling year which saw the British and Irish Lions complete a series win over Australia and Wales win their 26th Six Nations title, Jeremy Guscott looks back at his moments of 2013.
The best team, the best players and the best try, along with Jeremy's 'Champagne moment of the year', are all here as our rugby union expert picks his best of 2013.
What is your Champagne moment of 2013?
When George North scored his first Test try for the Lions against Australia in Brisbane. It was a very special moment. The bomb from Berrick Barnes wasn't the best and the kick chase from the Wallabies was poor, but the way North evaded the Australian defenders with steps and pure speed was magical.
Who were the best team of 2013?
The All Blacks have rightly been named team of the year for their outstanding 100% record in 2013. It's a fantastic achievement. You have to applaud their squad. They have a fitness and rugby skill-set that no team can equal.
Their success is even more remarkable given that quite possibly they wouldn't have more than four players making a world XV team. That proves to me their collective abilities are so much better than the rest.
You also have to factor in that they are favourites to win every game they play. Most sides raise their performance against the best team, but the Kiwis don't have that motivation. It is amazing how they consistently perform to such a high standard.
They played a lot of games this year without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, which makes me believe their reign as the best is going to continue for the foreseeable future.
The All Blacks are beatable and their winning run will come to an end for sure. The Irish nearly did it but couldn't quite hold on. They played so well but were edged by a team that has an unshakeable belief.
Who was your outstanding player(s) of the year?
My outstanding British player would be a toss-up between Welshmen Jonathan Davies and George North. The former's all-round game is pretty complete, his defence is solid and he's a big attacking threat. North, for someone so young, is a breath of fresh air with his willingness to attack.
Both Davies and North have the size to carry the ball well into contact but also the touches and skills to beat players given any amount of space.
New Zealand's Kieran Read was the best player in the world this year. He was pretty faultless in all games and he was up for man of the match most of the time. His skills, fitness and rugby mind enable him to make moves and take decisions that other players struggle to compete with.
Read's fellow All Black Ben Smith can't go without a mention in this section, again for the sheer brilliance he's shown since coming in as a relatively unknown on the global scene. He's scored a lot of tries and shown a lot of skill and his ability to beat a first defender and then look for support to keep the move going has been of a very high standard.
What was the best try of the year?
I thought Bryan Habana's second try for South Africa against the All Blacks at Ellis Park was pretty special. Francois Louw set it up with a brilliant off-load but Habana still had a way to go. His chip ahead was perfect. Then he got the bounce and outstripped the Kiwi defence to score a brilliant try.
What was the worst thing about 2013?
The inability of all parties to agree a sensible European rugby solution, although it does look as though a solution is close to being reached. When the issue is finally resolved, I'm convinced they will all look back and ask themselves why it took so long.
Harlequins prop Joe Marler. I can never understand why he always seems to be in the face of a lot of players, having unnecessary little niggles. He'd get a lot more respect if he just got on with playing the game he's well equipped to do. He does sometimes appear to be the pantomime villain.