We pick out the hits, tries and moments from the 2013 rugby union season
Last Updated: 23/12/13 4:34pm
Best of 2013
2013 has been a bumper year for rugby union aficionados - a first British and Irish Lions series win in 16 years; a Rugby Championship to savour and some superb Autumn Internationals.
And throughout the year one team has cast their shadow over the rest of the rugby world - the mighty All Blacks.
We take a look at what has impressed and disappointed us in 2013...
Team of the year
All Blacks - Season so far
Not even up for discussion - New Zealand. Played 14, won 14 and are streets ahead of any other side in the world. Yes, Ireland and England pushed them hard in their autumn Tests but every side raise their game when they play the All Blacks. However, New Zealand were consistently at the top of their game and hats off to them for seeing off all-comers.
Player of the year
Another one that was not up for debate. Kieran Read was phenomenal this year and has set a new standard for No. 8 play. His stint as captain in the absence of Richie McCaw did nothing to inhibit him. A superb athlete who not only does the hard graft but also has the pace and the awareness to frighten defences.
Game of the year
South Africa 27-38 New Zealand. Ireland's 22-24 loss ran this game very close but the game at Ellis Park ticked all the boxes for us. We really did not want it to end. The two best teams in the world produced a blinder.
Finish of the year
Ryan Crotty's try in Ireland versus New Zealand. This probably won't placate our Irish friends either. When Ma'a Nonu knocked on with two minutes to go it looked like Ireland had done the unthinkable and beaten the best team on the planet. With 20 seconds to go, Ireland were in control of the ball but conceded a penalty when Jack McGrath went straight off his feet at the ruck. The All Blacks were patient and calm as they worked their way up field. Every player played their part as they showed their skills before replacement hooker Dane Coles got the offload out of the tackle to Ryan Crotty whose try levelled the scores. Hats off to Aaron Cruden who then stepped up and knocked over a difficult conversion to give the kiwis the win.
Moment of the year
Australia v Lions - 3rd Test
British Lions win their first series in 16 years. After one win apiece in the Tests, the series went down to a decider in Sydney - and despite the vast majority of fans, pundits and experts expecting a close game, the Lions cut loose to devastating effect. Tries from Alex Corbisiero, Jonathan Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts, along with 21 points from man of the series Leigh Halfpenny sealed a record-breaking victory.
Lions - George North's best bits
The win meant the Lions finished with an impressive record of played 10, won eight, lost two - while the likes of Halfpenny, North and Corbisiero elevated themselves to world-class status.
Controversy of the year
BO'D: Disappointed to miss third Test
Plenty of these from the troubles with the Aussies during the Lions series, the below-par pitches that are ruining Test matches and the ongoing drama regarding the future of the European competition. However, Warren Gatland's decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll takes top spot. Even after his decision was vindicated with that series win, the vitriol and vicious criticism aimed at Gatland - and Jonathan Davies - was uncalled for.
Tackle of the year
Tackle of the Year - Du Plessis on Carter
"No arms and high," claimed referee Roman Poite as he yellow carded Springbok hooker Bismarck Du Plessis for his hit on Dan Carter. He was wrong on all accounts and it was a shame he did not make full use of the video referee when he asked for help unraveling the fracas that followed the fantastic tackle.
Newcomer of the year
Newcomer of the Year - Folau
Stuart Barnes may have started off calling Israel Folau the poor man's Sonny Bill Williams but was converted after Folau's exceptional first season in Union. A magnificent athlete who is almost impossible to stop, Folau is superb under the highball and offers so much in attack. We look forward to seeing him develop his skills even more in 2014.
Disappointment of the year
Europe. No one should be isolated from playing and we hope a solution is found without anymore mudslinging. We are also not happy with the state of some of the so-called international pitches we saw in 2013. An accident waiting to happen, please sort it out.
Quotes of the year
"I haven't taken a lot of pleasure out of this in terms of feeling vindicated. I haven't enjoyed the last 72 hours, it's been tough personally. Maybe in a week or two I might get some pleasure out of this, but at the moment there isn't a lot of pleasure because of the amount of criticism that had been personally placed on me."
Warren Gatland struggles to savour the Lions' winning series after enduring intense criticism for dropping Brian O'Driscoll for the final Test
"When the battle was going on around me, I was aware that I was in the middle of one hell of a game, but it wasn't until afterwards, watching the footage back that it really sunk in. In my opinion it was the best game of rugby that has been played in many years."
Nigel Owen after reffing the 'game of the century' South Africa v New Zealand
"Sorry for the over-reaction brother."
Schalk Brits apologises to Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell for punching him during the Barbarians v Lions clash in Hong Kong
"Man, how good was Jonathan Davies today?"
O'Driscoll heaps praise on his team-mate following the Lions' win over the Waratahs
"I didn't know how to put him down because I was the one with the ball."
George North on his headline-making lift of Israel Folau during the second Lions Test
"Sometimes you have to put your balls on the line."
Gatland on his decision to drop O'Driscoll from the final Test with Australia
"Obviously totally gutted at being left out for deciding Test but all efforts go into preparing the boys to see it through."
O'Driscoll reacts to being dropped by throwing his support behind the team
"The first thing that came into my mind was that Robbie Deans, the Australian coach, must be laughing all the way."
Willie John McBride slams the axing of Lions centre Brian O'Driscoll
"It's the last bastion of the landlord versus serf relationship."
Saracens chairman Nigel Wray over the future of the Heineken Cup.
"I don't like Mike Phillips, he's an unpleasant little guy and I hope we smash him."
Nick Mallett ahead of Wales v South Africa
"At least he can enjoy our games without having to worry about the result."
Stuart Lancaster invites Roy Hodgson to a game at Twickenham
"Statistics are like a bikini, it shows a lot but not the whole thing and if you go back in time, the stats may be lying."
Scotland coach Scot Johnson reacting to Scotland's record against England
"This was an absolute disgrace. A match of this quality deserved to have fifteen players on the field for the whole game. The referee had every opportunity to look at that [the tackle]. He ruined the game as a spectacle because of that first yellow card that wasn't. It's a disgrace, and it needs to be said."
Nick Mallett after Roman Poite sent off Bismark Du Plessis
"We survived a s**t storm."
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen after their last-gasp win against Ireland.