As such, where better to start our look back at the past year than with New Zealand ending over two decades of misery by clinching the 2011 World Cup with a 8-7 win over a valiant France.
Much like every previous occasion, the All Blacks headed into this year's tournament as overwhelming favourites; with Tri-Nations rivals Australia and South Africa to only likely threats standing in their way.
New Zealand had been rocked by a devastating earlier in the year, which made them the sentimental favourites of the international community. With a vociferous home crowd adding to the chorus of support, things boded well for Richie McCaw's men.
And it all started fairly well for the All Blacks, as they racked up four convincing victories in the pool stage, setting up a quarter-final encounter with Argentina, whom they defeated 33-10.
Things got feisty in the semi-finals when they were pitted against old foes Australia, but New Zealand cruised to victory off the back of some inspirational kicking from scrum-half Piri Weepu.
France, whom the All Blacks had beaten 37-17 during their earlier Pool A encounter, then remained the last challenger capable of breaking New Zealand hearts once again. But things certainly looked bright when Tony Woodcock crossed for the opening try of the final in the 15th minute.
However, Marc Lievremont's charges were proving a stubborn side to break down, and it wasn't until six minutes into the second half that New Zealand managed to get on the board again. Fourth-choice fly-half Stephen Donald, only in the squad after tournament-ending injuries to Dan Carter and Colin Slade, then brought on after Aaron Cruden limped off, lined up a penalty in front of the posts. The pressure was certainly on, especially after Weepu's normally-trusty right boot had failed to deliver throughout the first half and Donald's kick was wobbly, far from convincing, but it sailed through nevertheless, making the score 8-0 in favour of the All Blacks.
One minute later, inspirational Les Bleus captain Thierry Dusatoir crossed for France, and after a successful conversion by Francois Trinh-Duc, New Zealand's lead had been cut to a solitary point.
But while the New Zealand crowd's faith may have wavered, McCaw's resilience never did, as he dragged his troops across the line to lift their second World Cup, guaranteeing the class of 2011 will forever be mentioned in the same breath as the heroes of 1987.
Southern sides set to dominate?
New Zealand's victory was the second successive World Cup to be won by a team from the Southern hemisphere, and there is good reason to believe the Tri-Nations sides will continue to dominate international rugby.
The All Blacks did have one of the oldest squads at this year's World Cup, but apart from Keven Mealamu and Kevin Hore, the rest of are expected to play on for at least another four years, where they will look to defend their title in England and Wales. And with young stars Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui coming to the fore, the future is looking bright for New Zealand.
Despite their semi-final exit, the Wallabies are another side on the up, with a good blend of seasoned campaigners and exciting young talent. Notably, 21-year-old James O'Connor has been tipped for great things, and impressed with some blinding displays on the wing. However, with first-choice fly-half Quade Cooper ruled out with a long-term injury, O'Connor has been tipped to stake his claim for the No. 10 jersey.
Likewise, the Springboks may have disappointed by bowing out to Australia in the quarter-finals, but they are by no means a spent force. Ruan Pienaar and Morne Steyn remain one of the best halves pairings in the game, while the South African forward pack is arguably unbeatable on their day.
And while Argentina have traditionally been a competitive side without ever truly challenging for top honours, they will take part in the newly-created Four Nations tournament starting 2012, and regular fixtures against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa could just be the tonic the Pumas need to take the next step forward.
Northern hordes gathering momentum
However, that is not to say the Northern hemisphere teams will be rolling over any time soon.
England did cruise to a 26th Six Nations crown back in March, winning four of their five games, but they undid all their good work at the World Cup thanks to poor discipline from several players, including vice-captain Mike Tindall, resulting in Martin Johnson stepping down as coach in November. England have quality players aplenty, but the pressure will be on Johnson's replacement to rein in his wayward stars.
Of all the home nations, Wales impressed the most at the World Cup, and none more so than 23-year-old captain Sam Warburton, who led by example. Yes, his campaign was tarnished by a red card in the semi-final for a spear tackle, which ultimately cost his side victory in their narrow 9-8 loss to the French. But his challenge was more clumsy than malicious, and if Warburton is able to exorcise the psychological demons of that game, he will go on to succeed McCaw as the best flanker in the world.
Ireland were one of the sides that Wales defeated along the way, but Declan Kidney's men certainly did themselves proud, finishing top of Pool C ahead of the Wallabies. The game between the two sides was arguably the best of the whole tournament, with the Irish recording a stunning 15-6 win over Australia on the back of an inspirational performance from prop Cian Healy.
The perfect swansong for an Irish legend
On the club scene, Leinster were crowned champions of Europe after defeating Northampton 33-22 in the Heineken Cup Final. And while it was fly-half Jonny Sexton who singlehandedly won Leinster the game, scoring 28 of his side's 33 points, the loudest cheer was reserved for Brian O'Driscoll, who is slowly but surely coming to the end of a glittering career.
Widely regarded as one of the best centres in the game, this year's continental triumph ensured that O'Driscoll will leave the game with two Heineken Cups and a Six Nations Championship to his name.
A year to forget for...
Most of the 30 players that represented England at the World Cup could stake their claim, especially considering how they managed to embarrass an entire nation with their off-field antics, and some dull performances on it.
Quade Cooper too is another possible candidate. While he did guide the Queensland Reds and Australia to the Super 15 and Tri-Nations titles respectively, he remains a liability for his team in defence, and needs to add grit and determination to complement his natural talent.
A horrendous showing in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, his nation of birth, did not help, while a horrific injury in the Bronze Medal playoff against Wales only made matters worse, especially with O'Connor since impressing in his first match deputising at fly-half.
However, the player that made an absolute fool of himself in 2011 was Samoa and Gloucester centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, who seemed to be on a mission to court as much controversy as possible.
Angry that the bigger teams were allowed plenty of rest between matches at the World Cup, while the likes of Samoa had to play back-to-back matches with as little as four days rest, Fuimoano-Sapolu likened the IRB's treatment to slavery, the holocaust and apartheid!
"IRB, Stop exploiting my people. Please, all we ask, is fairness. If they [other teams] get a week [off], give us a week. Simple," the outspoken 31-year-old posted on his Twitter account.
"Ok, it's obvious the IRB are unjust. Wales get 7 days [of rest], we get 3. Unfair treatment, like slavery, like the holocaust, like apartheid.
"Give Wales 3 days off, and give Samoa a week!!! We would kill them!!!"
Nonetheless, the IRB were willing to let his tirade slide with jusr a stern warning, but then Fuimaono-Sapolu went on to accuse Welsh referee Nigel Owens of being a 'racist' after Samoa's 13-5 loss to South Africa. He was handed a suspended six-month ban for his troubles.
But just when you thought the Samoan would be keeping quiet in the near future, just a month later, he slammed rising star Owen Farrell after the two had a heated confrontation in a match between Gloucester and Saracens.
"To young rugby players do not be arrogant. If you want to be tough on the field make sure you back it up off it. #farrell," Fuimaono-Sapolu stated on Twitter once again.
"Love it when players talk big on the field in front of the camera. I like to see if they talk big off the field when no cameras around [sic]."
For his tweeting exertions, the RFU slapped Fuimaono-Sapolu with a three-week ban and he will now walk the tightest of ropes when it comes to his behaviour, both on and off the field.
You would think Fuimaono-Sapolu would be wise enough to do things differently if he had the chance all over again, but given the abrasive personality we have witnessed over the past year, perhaps it would be naïve to think so.
But for the sake of the Samoan star, let's hope his Twitter account stays very quiet for the next twelve months.