World Rugby Awards take place in Monaco
World's best male and female player crowned
It’s rugby’s answer to football’s Ballon d’Or, the night the best player of the year is crowned.
The World Rugby Awards take place in Monaco Sunday, celebrating the game’s finest players, coaches, teams, and tries of 2017.
England and New Zealand occupy the top two spots in the men’s rankings, and this has been reflected in the Player of the Year award.
Last year’s winner Beauden Barrett, his All Black teammate Rieko Ioane, Australian winger Israel Folau, and Englishmen Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje make up the nominees.
Under coach Eddie Jones, England have lost just once this year – to Ireland, on the way to defending their Six Nations title.
Fly-half Farrell and second-row Itoje have been instrumental for their national side, but have also enjoyed success in club rugby after helping Saracens retain their European Champions Cup title.
Farrell, who was last season’s European Player of the Year, held his nerve in New Zealand by kicking the British & Irish Lions to a draw in the final test of the series. It helped the Lions, unfancied before the tour, tie an eventful series for the first time ever.
Last year’s Breakthrough Player of the Year Itoje, still only 23, has impressed for England, Saracens, and the Lions. His athletic versatility has seen him feature as both a flanker and a second-row this season.
The All Blacks have suffered two defeats in 2017, one coming in the second test against the British & Irish Lions in July – their first defeat on home soil in 47 games – and most recently to Australia in the final Bledisloe Cup contest of the year.
Two blips aside, Steve Hansen’s side remain the dominant force in world rugby.
The All Blacks recently celebrated an eighth consecutive year as the world No. 1 ranked side and successfully defended their Rugby Championship title against Australia, South Africa, and Argentina.
The 2016 Player of the Year Barrett has continued to shine for his country and was rewarded at the start of November with his first opportunity to captain New Zealand.
Ever creative in attack, Barrett recently showcased his defensive armory with a last-gasp tackle to deny Scotland their first victory over the All Blacks in 112 years.
The fly-half could be the first player to win back-to-back Player of the Year awards since Richie McCaw, the former New Zealand captain, in 2010.
Barrett is joined by countryman Ioane in the shortlist. The winger is also in the running for Breakthrough Player of the Year after making his All Blacks debut aged 19 last year, scoring nine tries in 12 Tests since.
Australian Folau completes the five nominees.
The towering, 6-foot 4-inch winger, who got married earlier this week, has bagged 12 tries in 10 matches for his country this year.
In the women’s Player of the Year award, Portia Woodman stands out. Her 13 tries helped the Black Ferns secure a fifth World Cup in Ireland earlier this year.
She is joined by fellow Black Fern Kelly Brazier – who, like Woodman, is equally comfortable in 15 and seven-aside versions of the game – the French duo Safi N’Diaye and Romane Menager, and English winger Lydia Thompson, a runner-up at the World Cup.
The awards also reflect the best team, coach, try and sevens player for 2017.
For the first time, fans have been allowed to vote online. International captains, coaches, and the media have also been involved, helping the judging panel inform its decision.
New Zealand players have dominated the World Rugby Awards since their inception in 2001, and Hansen has picked up the top coaching award four times in the past five years.
Don’t be surprised to see a few All Blacks heading up to the stage in Monaco come Sunday …