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SUPER START TO A
You've gotta love this time of the year. The cricket's just about done and dusted and your rugby team is full of hope and ambition for the season ahead.
The Queensland Reds are ready to play like it's 2011, the Waratahs are fit and have a glint in their eye while the Melbourne Rebels, Brumbies and Western Force are injury free and their stars can't wait for the games to begin.
In New Zealand, the Highlanders are keen to make best use of their star-studded playing roster, the Crusaders are doing what they do best and the Blues have a couple of knights of the realm plotting their season.
A world away in South Africa, a new team is about to be welcomed into the Super Rugby fold in the guise of the Kings from Port Elizabeth but their downfall is already being plotted by the Sharks, Stormers and Bulls.
Yes it's a good time for any rugby fan, but this isn't any ordinary year with the arrival in June of the British & Irish Lions for a nine-match tour that includes a three-Test series against the Qantas Wallabies. It's a great opportunity for rugby to take back some of the ground that it has lost over the past four or five years.
Let's not beat around the bush here, our game needs a bit of a shake up and that starts with the first game of this Super Rugby season and continues right through the British Lions tour and on to the Super Rugby final on August 3.
The rugby that we will see needs to be high on skill, big on courage and it needs to connect with the average Joe in the stands – the guy that shells out his hard-earned to be entertained.
Last year's Aussie basket case the Waratahs, seem to be on the right path to deliver what people want, with their new boss Michael Cheika stamping his authority on a talented playing group.
The Reds have Quade Cooper back in the fold and will be a danger while the Brumbies are certainly better off for the heartbreak of last year when they stumbled at the final hurdle.
The Rebels will be a danger if their stars remain on the field and the Force would have to have more points in them than they did in 2012. It all makes the Australian conference a lot tighter contest than what we saw in 2012 and that can only be good for Robbie Deans and his selection panel.
Which brings us to what's in store in our special Super Rugby preview issue of Inside Rugby magazine. Adam Burnett has spoken to the experts about how code hopper Israel Folau will fare in his first season in Rugby and the overwhelming verdict is: "Yes he can".
Alex Broun travelled to Melbourne to speak to James O'Connor in his Zen Den and found a far more mature and driven player than we have seen in the past couple of years. We've also spoken to Michael Hooper about his breakaway year in 2012 and what lies ahead at the Tahs and we tell a story of great courage in the comeback of Clyde Rathbone to the Brumbies.
New Zealand is also covered and we speak to Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph about how his side has to deliver this season. From South Africa we recount the journey of Victor Matfield to Bulls forwards and attack coach.
There's also our exclusive analysis of each of the Super Rugby teams from the three conferences and we've also nominated the 15 storylines that will pop up between now and final day on August 3.
It's a pretty complete menu of action because as you know here at Inside Rugby magazine we don't scratch the surface we go inside rugby!