First of all, fitness permitting England will have had another 10 Test matches by that point with Marcus Smith running the attack at No 10 and with England building their game around the talented Harlequins fly-half, following the Six Nations, summer tour to Australia and those games with Argentina and Japan. Smith’s connections with Ben Youngs at half-back and then whoever makes up England’s midfield – most likely Owen Farrell and given his form, Henry Slade – will be far stronger as a result by the time England have to face New Zealand.
As for the All Blacks there will be an element of revenge-seeking about their trip to Twickenham after that semi-final, and coming off a disappointing 2021 by their illustrious standards losing three Test matches. They have not been defeated by England at Twickenham since 2012, either. It should be a cracking Test. Ben Coles
It has to be all about the new regulations. This is the moment F1 has been building up to for several years. By the end of 2021, F1 cars had evolved into enormous, ugly, high-downforce beasts with various bits of aerodynamic accoutrements and furniture bolted on everywhere.
The new cars will be sleeker and simpler. One aim is that they will facilitate better and closer racing, reducing the dirty air for following cars. Another target was to create a more equal and fair championship after so many years of Mercedes dominance, giving more teams and drivers a better chance to finish on the podium and compete for race wins.
The problem is that 2021 was F1’s most competitive season for years. Six different drivers won for four different teams and, for the first time since 2009, 13 drivers and eight teams finished on the podium. A regulation reset is only likely to increase the gaps between the teams, especially at the front.
Will Mercedes ace them like they did in 2014? Or will F1’s new era be everything it was hoped? We will only start to have an idea when the cars hit the track for the first time in testing. Luke Slater
It is the Lusail Stadium in Doha, December 18, the week before Christmas and it is the World Cup final. Gareth Southgate’s young England team have fought out a thrilling draw with Brazil having defeated Croatia in the quarter-finals – to exorcise the demons of 2018 – and then beaten Italy in a re-run of the final of Euro 2020 with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho among the scorers.
England have been the better team against Brazil but, with a strange sense of déjà vu, have been pegged back in the second-half and just about survived extra-time to take it to a penalty shoot-out. The first eight spot-kicks are all converted before, remarkably, Jordan Pickford dives low to his right to turn away the effort of Brazil’s fifth penalty, taken by Neymar.
Who is England’s final taker? Up steps Bukayo Saka and, this time, he buries the ball confidently past Alisson to win the final for England. After 56 years of hurt England are finally the world champions once more.
Could it happen? Maybe not quite in this romantic manner – with all three players who missed in the Euro 2020 final shoot-out scoring – but, undoubtedly, the World Cup is the most eagerly-awaited football event of 2022 and England can justifiably be ranked among the favourites. After a semi-final and a final in their last two tournaments then, of course, winning it is the last, glorious step. And it is an achievable one. Jason Burt
Old Trafford is set to be packed when England and Austria take to the field on Wednesday, July 6 to kick-start the most keenly-anticipated Women’s European Championship to date. Delayed by 12 months because of the pandemic, England’s first home tournament since 2005 will finally get under way in front of what is anticipated to be the largest ever Women’s Euros crowd, with early ticket sales indicating the attendance will far surpass the 41,302 who watched the 2013 final in Sweden to set the existing record.
And unlike 2005, when the competition was staged exclusively within the north west of England, this time matches will be played across nine host cities before the final at Wembley, on July 31, where Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses are dreaming of making history by winning their first major trophy.
However, unlike any previous staging of this event, at least eight or nine teams have a genuine chance of going on to lift the title. From the holders Holland, to record eight-times winners Germany, to many experts’ favourites Spain, the standard has never been higher thanks to the increasing professionalisation of the sport across much of the continent, and this wide-open Euro 2022 is poised to deliver a hugely competitive month of world-class sport that has the potential to change the face of the women’s game in England forever. Tom Garry
It may be fantasy land after a topsy-turvy year in the heavyweight division, but nothing would top a battle for the undisputed heavyweight title between the victors in the match-ups between Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte (WBC title) and the return pitching Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua together again (IBF, WBA and WBO belts). Neither contest has a confirmed date yet, but both are expected around March-time, though Whyte must still resolve his arbitration case with the WBC sanctioning body, lodged some time ago (although ludicrously Whyte is now the mandatory challenger).