Ah 2022, the year that saw normality return to our rugby lives, well sort of return.
With the covid-19 pandemic easing off and stadiums beginning to fill up once again, the great game of Rugby Union began to reconnect with its passionate fans on a more personal level.
Key to this rejuvenation was a brief reminder that in a world of highly corporate top level sport, Rugby still possesses some of the very best characters around.
Whether it was a wild press conference, a funny on the field incident or simply a player’s true colours coming through, we rugby fans were fortunate to witness some spectacularly hilarious moments in 2022.
So here is a look back at our top five Rugby Characters from last year.
New England Free Jacks Kyle Ciquera Breaks The Internet
2031 Rugby World Cup hosts the USA enjoyed a rather up and down year in 2022. Narrowly missing out on qualification for the 2023 Rugby World Cup was a serious gut punch for the Eagles who will now begin a major overhaul as they look to qualify for the 2027 edition. A strong campaign in Australia 2027 could lead to a Japan like turnaround before the 2031 tournament.
Whilst the national team may not quite have hit their straps, the domestic MLR tournament has continued to go from strength-to-strength with some of the biggest names in the game now plying their trade in the USA.
Whilst having players the calibre of Ma’a Nonu, Matt Giteau and Chris Robshaw play in the league is cool, their presence pales in comparison to the home-grown talent that is Kyle Ciquera.
The Connecticut born man is the epitome of what all rugby men should strive to be. Possessing a mullet unmatched by even the great Reiko Ioane and facial hair that would win the international man of Movember award at a canter, Ciquera is a true specimen.
At just 23-years-old the 118kg Loosehead made waves in 2022 as both a player and rugby symbol. If he is not the poster boy for the 2031 World Cup, then someone at USA Rugby will need to take a long hard look at themselves.
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Waikato Chiefs Naitoa Ah Kuoi Gives A Post Match Masterclass
In a country where Rugby simply dwarfs all other sports, New Zealand Rugby has a propensity to churn out World Class players at a seemingly astronomical rate.
Whilst performances on the pitch are what gets players new contracts, it is their interviews that could well set them up for media roles post their playing days.
Should this prove to be the case then Chiefs lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi looks set to be fighting off media employers when he does hang up his boots.
Speaking after his sides last minute narrow victory over the Melbourne Rebels, Ah Kuoi delivered an interview unlike any we have seen since the legendary Nick “The Honey Badger” Cummins.
Leicester Tigers Freddie Burns Wins Premiership And The After Party
English Premiership giants Leicester Tigers produced one of the biggest turnarounds last season under now England coach Steve Borthwick.
Having found themselves uncharacteristically at the bottom of the table in 2020 and avoiding relegation exclusively due to Saracens salary cap scandal, the Tigers brought in Borthwick to turn things around.
And boy did he make a difference as he took the Tigers from bottom dwellers in 2020 to mid table in 2021 to champions in 2022.
Whilst Borthwick was the clear protagonist in the club’s turnaround, it would be the unlikely figure of Freddie Burns who would be the final hero.
Having left the Premiership to try his hand in Japanese professional rugby, Burns would make an earlier than anticipated return to the English topflight due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Following a number of up and down seasons at his hometown Bath, Burns returned to the Tigers to fill the role as understudy to George Ford.
Starting the final on the bench Burns would be thrust into action early in the contest as Ford went down with an injury.
From here Burns would go on show his metal as he delivered a cool, calm and assured performance which was then followed up with a off the field performance that was anything but cool and calm!
Renowned was one of the good guys in the game, fans the world over were happy for Burns and thoroughly enjoyed following his well-earned post-match celebrations!
@lovellrugby Freddie Burns celebrating his Premiership winning drop goal with a late night Maccies 😂 #lovellrugby #freddieburns #leicestertigers #champions #rugby #twickenham #premiershiprugby #premiership #rugbyspot #rugbytok #mcdonalds #fyp #fypシ ♬ original sound – Lovell Rugby
Taniela Tupou Welcomes The Poms Down Under
Wallabies Front Rower Taniela Tupou has been one of Rugby’s most followed players over the past five years.
Key to his popularity has been his incredible on-field persona as the ‘Tongan Thor’, a nickname which is well earned as many an opposition ball carrier will tell you.
At 5’11” and 132kg the 26-year-old represents the ideal modern day front row player as he possesses not only the intangibles in terms of his set piece play but is also one of the most devastating ball carriers and tacklers in the game.
Key to his ball carrying ability is the incredible box of subtle skills he possesses that defenders seriously underestimate as they are preparing to try and somehow tackle him.
Whilst Tupou’s on field performances have made him a mainstay in both the Reds and Wallabies set-ups, it is his hilarious off-field antics that have built a real connection with fans.
Starting back with his top five moments on “The Other Rugby Show” on Fox Sport six years ago right up to his brilliant advert ahead of the Wallabies three test series with England.
Tupou looks set to continue his rise as one of the game’s biggest stars and has rather frighteningly yet to his peak as a prop!
Here is to many more years of Tupou excellence on the pitch and more fun off it!
— Philip Bendon (@PBendon) January 1, 2023
Harlequins Joe Marler General Shithousery
England and Harlequins prop Joe Marler has been one of the game’s greatest characters both on and off the field for a decade now and this doesn’t look like stopping any time soon.
Whilst the giant prop gets plenty of flak in the media some of it warranted with most of it being over the top, there can be no doubting that the game needs men like Marler.
Having been open with struggles surrounding mental health, Marler remains a breath of fresh air when it comes to showcasing that Rugby is in fact a game for all.
Renowned for his trademark mohawks and bulldozing scrummaging ability, Marler’s biggest draw remains his ability to remain brutally honest whilst delivering a much-needed laugh.
Across 2022 there was once again too many occasions to list individually where Marler made us laugh but here is a brilliant video from Quins that remind us of some of his good ones!