Just as in 2003, Jonny Wilkinson occupied more column inches than any other rugby player in 2004.
And yet the World Cup hero only played seven competitive matches this year, and none for England.
The legacy of England's triumph down under left rugby's superstar nursing a career-threatening shoulder injury that eventually required surgery.
After finally making it back onto the field in September, Wilkinson was on the sidelines again as the year ended.
Without Wilkinson and retired captain Martin Johnson, England were only third best in Europe after the Six Nations.
The anticipated party for their return to Twickenham became a wake as Ireland enjoyed a stunning upset, and defeat to champions France confirmed the frailty.
But after a disastrous summer tour of New Zealand and Australia, England returned to form in the autumn.
Victory over South Africa galvanised Andy Robinson's new regime before the Wallabies extracted World Cup revenge.
Sir Clive Woodward, the architect of victory down under, had gone, resigning in September in frustration over lack of time with his players.
And the break-up of his squad continued with Jason Leonard, Kyran Bracken, Neil Back, Paul Grayson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Mark Regan following Johnson.
Ireland's Twickenham triumph helped them land the Triple Crown for the first time in 19 years.
And Wales also showed signs of recovery with a return to the style of the 1970s.
With Mike Ruddock replacing Steve Hansen as coach after the Six Nations, the Welsh came agonisingly close to beating South Africa and New Zealand.
But Ireland did manage to beat the Springboks for only the second time in their history.
Only Scotland, who lost twice to Australia in the summer and twice more in the autumn, were struggling to keep pace with the other home unions.
Wasps enjoyed a notable double
Defeat to Italy in Rome condemned the Scots to the Six Nations wooden spoon.
England's domestic game flourished on the back of their World Cup triumph, with club attendances up by a third.
Wasps retained their knack of peaking at the right time by beating Bath in the Zurich Premiership final.
That completed a momentous double triumph for Lawrence Dallaglio and company after a thrilling Heineken Cup final victory over Toulouse.
Clement Poitrenaud and Rob Howley will never forget it, the former's error gifting the latter the winning try.
The year ended with Leicester leading the Premiership and threatening to regain their former dominance, but with Wasps hard on their heels.
It was not just in England that standards and intensity rose.
The most competitive Celtic League to date witnessed a thrilling climax with Llanelli Scarlets pipping Ulster to the title on the final weekend.
And as the year draws to a close, much attention is already focused on next summer's Lions tour to New Zealand.
Before that, the excitement and drama of the Six Nations beckons once again.
Who knows, Jonny might be ready to don the white jersey again by then.