With Super Rugby kicking off in a fortnight's time, and the Australian Men's and Women's Rugby Sevens teams defending their Sydney Sevens title next weekend, the 2019 Australian Rugby season is well and truly upon us.
With that in mind, RUPA reached out to all of the current and former players on our Board to find out their thoughts on the year ahead; today, we hear from NSW Waratahs Player Director, Bernard Foley.
Bernard, what are you most excited about, from an Australian Rugby perspective, in 2019?
"I think for me, the pinnacle is the Rugby World Cup. I was lucky enough to experience it four years ago, and ever since then based on how close we came it has been something I've earmarked. It is a great tournament which highlights the great things about Rugby; how it's a global game, and how it can unite a country.
"I'm really excited about Japan, and all of our preparations are aimed towards going one better. Japan will host such a great World Cup; the hospitality of the Japanese is second to none, and the logistics of getting around and the ability to handle big crowds is there too. It's one easy flight for Australians to attend, so I think it will be a great showcase for Rugby."
Which Australian player(s) are you most looking forward to watching in action this year, and why?
"There's a number of players, and a couple of old heads in the mix. Having Karmichael Hunt at the Waratahs is very exciting, and he brings great energy and is a great trainer.
"There's also a couple of guys in the Rugby Sevens program who I think are genuine world class players in Ben O'Donnell and Maurice Longbottom, who are both in their second year. Longbottom is such a game breaker!"
What does serving on the RUPA Board mean to you?
"I take the role with great responsibility and I really enjoy it. It is such a privilege to look after the other members and be a representative of the entire playing cohort - every Australasian player in all forms of the game.
"As Board Directors, what we need to be doing is ensuring that every player has a voice for not only negatives, but also the positives. We have a responsibility to help grow the game as players, and if we can do that in a collective and pro-active way then it is great for the sport."
What do you think is the single most pressing issue facing Australian Rugby heading into 2019?
"It could be seen as an issue, but I also think it is a real opportunity, in terms of engaging back with our fans. We have let that slip in the last couple of years, but it is such an exciting year for Rugby globally and also domestically, so there's plenty to build on.
"The Sevens teams have Olympic Games qualification to aim for, and all four Australian Super Rugby teams have been training exceptionally hard and there is genuine competition amongst what we think will be a really close and hard-fought conference.
"The Rugby World Cup only comes along every four years and we can use that to re-engage the Rugby public and hopefully convert a few more to get behind the great sport Rugby is, and what it is all about."
What is your all-time favourite Australian Rugby memory?
"Growing up, I loved watching the Wallabies win the Rugby World Cup and win Bledisloe Cups, so any time I get to represent the country and pull the Wallabies jersey on is very special. It is such a privilege, so my debut was particularly special and the 2015 World Cup stands out as well, and being a part of that is something which I hold truly special."