We look back at the moments which - for better or for worse - made 2011 a year to remember.
23 January: Veteran flanker Martyn Williams is omitted from Wales' 28-man squad for the Six Nations. It's a sign of things to come as later in the year he fails to make the Welsh World Cup squad and is left stranded on 99 Test appearances.
5 February: Ireland survive a massive scare as a last-gasp Ronan O'Gara drop-goal seals a 13-11 Six Nations win over Italy at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome.
26 February: Ben Foden scores the crucial try that seals England's win over defending Six Nations champions France. The win leaves England as the only unbeaten side in the competition and brings an end to France's defence of the title.
12 March: Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips scores a controversial try that should never have been awarded in their 19-13 victory over Ireland in the Six Nations. This after Wales captain and hooker Matthew Rees took a quick throw-in with a different ball from the one that was kicked into touch but referee Jonathan Kaplan permitted play to continue, allowing Phillips to scored.
12 March: Italy make history when they record their first ever Six Nations victory over France, winning 22-21 in a nail biter in Rome.
19 March: The Cheetahs create the sensation of Round Five of Super Rugby with a shock 23-3 win over the Waratahs in Sydney. This is the Bloemfontein-based side's first ever win on Australian soil.
19 March: Ireland spoil eventual Six Nations winners England's party when they win 24-8 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, ending the visitors' quest for a Grand Slam. The result means that England face an anxious wait before they can be crowned champions as Wales, who play against France in Paris the following day, still have a mathematical chance of winning the tournament.
20 March: France end their Six Nations campaign on a high after beating Wales 28-9 in Paris, and in the process leap-frog their visitors into second place in the final championship standings and hand the title to England.
27 March: The Crusaders defeat the Sharks 44-28 in a highly-entertaining Super Rugby clash at Twickenham. The match creates history as for the first time since Super Rugby's inception, 15 years ago, a match is played outside New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
08/09/10 April: The Heineken Cup quarter-finals have four French teams facing off against each other. In a first for the tournament, the two matches featuring French sides are both played on foreign soil. Perpignan beat Toulon in Barcelona and in San Sebastian Toulouse get the better of Biarritz.
20 May: Harlequins wrap up the Amlin Challenge Cup with a last-gasp 19-18 victory over Stade Français thanks to a late try from Argentinean wing Gonzalo Camacho.
21 May: Leinster come from behind to beat Nothampton Saints in the Heineken Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. Trailing 22-6 at the break, the Dublin-based side launch an astonishing comeback to win 33-22 and clinch their second European Cup title.
22 May: New Zealand win the Sevens World Series at the London tournament after beating Argentina in the quarter-final of the event. The Kiwis lose the subsequent semi-final against a strong Fijian side and South Africa defeat Fiji 24-14 in the final at Twickenham.
28 May: Saracens defeat Leicester 22-18 in a gripping Aviva Premiership Final at Twickenham. Teenager Owen Farrell kicks five penalties and converts James Short's try before a massive defensive display in the dying minutes keeps Tigers at bay. This is the first time in the London club's history that they are crowned champions.
28 May: In the Magners League Final, Munster beat Leinster 19-9 in front of a packed Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick, denying their rivals from Dublin a Euro-Celtic double.
4 June: Toulouse clinch their eighteenth Top 14 title when they defeat underdogs Montpellier 15-10 in the final at the Stade de France.
26 June: New Zealand's U20 team resist a comeback from England to win 33-22 and claim a fourth consecutive IRB Junior World Championship title in Padova, Italy.
2 July: The Crusaders reach the final of the Super Rugby competition after beating the Stormers 29-10 at Newlands in Cape Town. It's a significant achievement as the Christchurch-based franchise did not play any matches at home after the AMI Stadium was damaged during an earthquake in February.
6 July: 21 top players are all ruled out of the Springboks' Tri-Nations campaign through 'injury,' sparking controversy.
9 July: The Reds are crowned Super Rugby champions after beating the Crusaders 18-13 in what was a humdinger of a final at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
13 July: Japan create history on the final day of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, winning the title for the first time by beating tournament hosts Fiji 24-13 in Lautoka.
17 July: Samoa send a warning shot to their World Cup Pool rivals with a thrilling 32-23 victory over the Wallabies in Sydney.
18 August: Wallabies coach Robbie Deans replaces Rocky Elsom with James Horwill as Australia's captain in a shock move less than a month before the start of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Veteran playmaker Matt Giteau is omitted from the squad.
20 August: South Africa claim their first Test win of the year as Morné Steyn kicks all the Springboks' points to beat a below-strength All Blacks side 18-5 in Port Elizabeth. The match sparks controversy however after television match official Johann Meuwesen and referee George Clancy take a pragmatic approach to the laws and deny New Zealand a try.
23 August: It emerges that Toulon sporting director Philippe Saint-Andre is to replace Marc Lièvremont as France coach after the World Cup. The premature appointment leaves Lièvremont in an uncomfortable position and his relationship with both his players and the press gradually disintegrates.
27 August: Australia put on an inspirational display in Brisbane to beat New Zealand and secure their first Tri-Nations title since 2001.
3 September: Canterbury win their fourth consecutive New Zealand domestic championship title, beating Waikato 12-3 in a try-less ITM Cup Final in Hamilton.
9 September: Sixty thousand rugby fans pack into Auckland's Eden Park to witness the official start of the Rugby World Cup at the tournament's opening ceremony. The ceremony featured numerous dancers and singers as well as a spectacular fireworks displays which lit up Auckland's waterfront. The hosts beat Tonga 41-10 in the opening match of New Zealand's biggest ever sporting event.
15 September: Russia make their World Cup debut against USA in New Plymouth. The put up a brave fight but USA hold on for a narrow 13-6 victory.
17 September: Ireland cause the first shock of the World Cup when they beat Australia 15-6 at Eden Park - the result means that the eventual quarter-final draw is a split between the hemispheres.
19 September: Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu sends the first of a series of messages via the social network Twitter to vent his frustration at the disparity in recovery time given to tier-one and tier-two nations at the World Cup. This after Samoa lost 17-10 to Wales in a pool match. In the message Fuimaono-Sapolu slams the IRB and goes overboard by comparing the situation to slavery, apartheid and the holocaust.
1 October: Tonga produce the biggest upset of the 2011 World Cup when they beat eventual finalists France 19-14 in Wellington.
2 October: New Zealand is left in a state of shock as All Blacks fly-half Daniel Carter is ruled out of World Cup with a serious groin injury. Aaron Cruden is called up as a replacement but the hosts' fly-half worries are far from over.
9 October: Despite dominating territory and possession, defending champions South Africa are knocked out of the World Cup by Australia in their quarter-final in Wellington. Bok fans are up in arms however, and many blame referee Bryce Lawrence for their loss. Coach Peter de Villiers announces that his "journey [with the Springboks] is over." He later insists that he would like to stay on as head coach.
10 October: The All Blacks call up Bath-bound fly-half Stephen Donald and winger Hosea Gear into their World Cup squad to replace injured veteran Mils Muliaina and Colin Slade. A nation holds it's breath...
15 October: Referee Alain Rolland gives Wales' Sam Warburton a straight red card for a dangerous tip tackle on France's Vincent Clerc after just 18 minutes of their World Cup semi-final in Auckland. France hang on to win 9-8 but Rolland's decision to give Warburton his marching orders is the biggest talking point after the match. Wales coach Warren Gatland criticises Rolland's decision, saying it ruined the game.
15 October: The Blue Bulls fail to qualify for the semi-finals of the Currie Cup for the first time in ten seasons after Western Province beat the Pumas 43-18 in Cape Town to claim the final play-off spot along with the Lions, Sharks and Cheetahs.The Bulls beat the Leopards 92-21 in Pretoria the previous day but it proved too little, too late.
23 October: New Zealand beat France 8-7 in the World Cup Final at Eden Park in New Zealand. This is the first time the All Blacks have won the William Webb Ellis trophy since the inaugural tournament in 1987. There is controversy for several days after the final as the French press laments referee's Craig Joubert's failure to award les Bleus a penalty despite numerous Kiwi infringements in the second half while damning video footage emerges of French centre Aurélien Rougerie's hands on the eye of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. No disciplinary action is taken against Rougerie as the All Blacks did not lodge a complaint within the citing period after the game.
24 October: France captain Thierry Dusautoir is named the IRB Player of the Year, during a star-studded ceremony in Auckland. New Zealand are named IRB Team of the Year and Graham Henry IRB Coach of the Year, to add to their Rugby World Cup crown. Other award winners on the night included South Africa's Cecil Afrika, who wins the IRB Sevens Player of the Year award while England's George Ford takes home the IRB Junior Player of the Year gong.
29 October: The Golden Lions beat the Sharks 42-16 in the Currie Cup Final. This is the first time in 61 years that the Johannesburg-based union has won South Africa's leading domestic competition at their Ellis Park home.
31 October: All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams ends months of speculation when he commits his immediate future to the New Zealand Rugby Union by signing a one-year contract with the Chiefs.
1 November: Graham Henry stands down as coach of New Zealand, nine days after guiding the All Blacks to a second World Cup triumph. As well as the World Cup success, Henry steered the All Blacks to 88 wins in 103 Tests, clinched five Tri-Nations titles, swept the 2005 British and Irish Lions and completed Grand Slam tours in 2005, 2008 and 2010.
3 November: Former Perpignan coach Jacques Brunel is officially unveiled as the new Italy boss, replacing Nick Mallett, despite the latter's desire to stay on. Brunel's appointment had become public knowledge months before the World Cup, sparking links between Mallett and numerous vacant coaching jobs including England and the Springboks.
16 November: Martin Johnson resigns as England's coach after the team's disappointing World Cup campaign. His contract was due to expire at the end of the year and after taking time to consider his future, Johnson informs the Rugby Football Union of his intention to stand down. The World Cup-winning captain was manager for 38 games, winning 21, losing 16 and drawing one.
18 November: Edinburgh come from behind to clinch a thrilling 48-47 Heineken Cup win over Racing-Metro at Murrayfield. They looked a beaten side as Racing led 44-20 and then 47-27 with 12 minutes left. But Tim Visser's second try of the match and Greig Laidlaw's conversion sealed a memorable victory for the hosts.
29 November: The father of Biarritz star Imanol Harinordoquy has to be wrestled to the ground after running on to protect his son during a punch-up in a Top 14 clash between Biarritz and Bayonne.
8 December: The RFU confirm that Stuart Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell will coach England during the upcoming Six Nations. Lancaster is appointed as Interim Head Coach for England's title defence, with full-time appointments only expected before the June 2012 tour to South Africa.
9 December: Toulouse end Harlequins' fourteen-game winning streak in all competitions with dominant win at the Stoop. A week later however the English club return the favour by upsetting the four-time champions in France.
12 December: England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson announces his retirement from international rugby. Wilkinson played in 91 Tests for England and six for the British and Irish Lions and scored 1,246 points.
13 December: Bernard Lapasset is re-elected as chairman of the IRB, defeating Bill Beaumont by 14 votes to 12 at a meeting in Los Angeles. Lapasset also prevented Beaumont from re-claiming his position as vice-chairman. This position goes to South Africa Rugby Union (SARU) President Oregan Hoskins who had been deadlocked with Beaumont at 13 votes apiece - until Lapasset's casting vote.
21 December: Scotland full-back Chris Paterson announces his retirement from international rugby. Paterson won 109 caps, scoring 809 points - both records - and is the only Scot to have appeared in four Rugby World Cup tournaments.
22 December: The Irish Rugby Football Union announce major changes to the recruitment of foreign players. The IRFU's changes has been restricted to what they refer to as the "big three provinces" of Leinster, Munster and Ulster, with Connacht considered to be at a different stage of their development and are exempt. The three provinces will be forced to release foreigners in their squads when their current contracts come to an end.
26 December: Veteran prop John Hayes plays his 212th and last game for Munster in the St. Stephens' Day win over Connacht before retiring. 38-year-old Hayes represented Ireland in 105 Tests and the British and Irish Lions twice.
Compiled by Dave Skippers