New Zealand rugby sweeps world awards
It hasn’t been a vintage year by the All Blacks’ lofty standards but they‚ and New Zealand rugby‚ swept the World Rugby awards in Monte Carlo on Sunday night.
The Black Ferns‚ the NZ women’s team‚ made history by becoming the first female team to win the overall ‘Team of the Year’ gong as a reward for winning the 2017 Women’s World Cup in Ireland.
They beat out England men and the All Blacks for the award.
The All Blacks lost two matches in 2017 – once to the British & Irish Lions and one to Australia‚ while they also drew the third Test against the Lions.
It was the first time since 2011 that the All Blacks lost more than one game in a calendar year.
All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett though was named 2017 World Player of the Year‚ retaining the crown he won last year.
Barrett became only the second player to win the prestigious award two years in a row‚ matching the achievement of his former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw in 2009-10.
He received the award ahead of four other nominees in All Blacks teammate Rieko Ioane‚ England and British Lions duo Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje and Australia fullback Israel Folau.
Barrett said: “I’m very proud and surprised.
"I wanted to be better than last year and I still think I have plenty more to go.
"The Lions series put us under the most pressure I have probably felt in a black jersey and that’s a credit to the Lions.
"We learnt a lot from that series‚ particularly taking that into the World Cup.
"When I hang the boots up‚ that’s when I can look back and be really proud of this.
"I’ve got to thank my team. I am just one player amongst a great team.”
Blitzbok playmaker Rosko Specman lost out on the World Sevens Player of the Year award to the USA’s Perry Baker.
The American speedster was the Series’ leading try and points-scorer in 2016/17 with 57 tries and 285 points.
England mentor Eddie Jones was named World Coach of the Year after guiding England to nine wins in 10 Tests‚ their only blemish coming against Ireland in the Six Nations.
New Zealand winger Portia Woodman was named the World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year 2017 after helping the Black Ferns win a fifth Women’s Rugby World Cup title in Ireland in August.
She received the award ahead of four other nominees in Black Ferns teammate Kelly Brazier‚ England winger Lydia Thompson and France back-row duo Romane Menager and Safi N’Diaye.
All Black wing Ioane was named World Breakthrough Player of the Year after scoring 10 tries in 11 starts this season.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “It has been an outstanding 2017 for rugby on and off the field and tonight we have recognised and celebrated those who have made it so special.
“From the players‚ teams and coaches who have inspired millions of fans to the unsung volunteers and projects who at community level are the foundation of our great game‚ we salute them all.
“Congratulations to all our nominees and award winners who have not just displayed excellence‚ but who embody rugby’s character-building values.”