Second to England in last year's Six Nations, France were runners-up to Wales this year after stumbling against Scotland with the trophy in sight. But the French renaissance was confirmed with their sparkling 40-25 win over the All Blacks, who headed home to headlines shouting "Crisis!" despite winning 12 out of 15 Tests.
After engineering back-to-back wins over the Springboks, Australia's promising year fizzled out in Britain after key players Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi opted to stay with their Japanese clubs during the off-season. The farcical episode left coach Dave Rennie livid and Australia in a muddle over the risks of picking overseas-based players with split loyalties.
Rugby also had its moment on the Olympic stage with Fiji defending their men's sevens title and New Zealand claiming the women's gold. Long neglected by the game's power brokers, Pacific nations were buoyed by a rule change which will allow players to switch national teams from 2022, a potential game-changer for a region rich in talent but poor in resources.
Two Pasifika teams were confirmed to join Australia and New Zealand in Super Rugby next year, bringing the professional game much closer to home.