IRB awards recognise game changers

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November 19, 2013 (ISN) – The International Rugby Board has recognised the achievements of three individuals who have changed the face of Rugby in their countries with the presentation of prestigious awards.

The global governing body posthumously recognised the achievements of Ange Guimera, a pioneer of Brazilian, Uruguayan and Ivory Coast Rugby, with the IRB Special Development award.

President of the Brazilian Rugby Union Sami Arap was presented with the prestigious award at a star-studded gathering at the IRB World Rugby Conference and Exhibition in Dublin on Monday.

A pioneer of Rugby in Ivory Coast and Uruguay in his formative years, Guimera was the driving force behind the development of Rugby in Brazil.

Rugby in Brazil is booming with more men, women and children playing the sport than ever before, inspired by the hosting of the first-ever Olympic Games Rugby Sevens events at Rio 2016.

That success is in no small measure down to the foundations laid by Guimera who, as well as coaching at youth level, was involved in setting up a number of social inclusion and participation projects until his death in the summer of 2012.

Former Japan international Yoshiharu Yamaguchi is the recipient of the Spirit of Rugby Award, having been another who changed many a life for the better through his role as rugby coach, teacher and mentor at Fushimi Technical High School.

On his arrival in the early 1970s, the under-performing school was plagued by delinquent behaviour and had little in the way of a sporting culture. Yamaguchi tackled the problems head-on, using Rugby’s core values as the driving force for change.

Within seven years, the school had won the Japan National High Schools Championship and continued to be a dominant force in rugby throughout the next two decades.

Women’s Rugby is one of the fastest-growing forms of the Game, with a fifth of all players female, and one of the first role models was Robin Timmins, who helped break down historical gender barriers through her tireless work as an administrator and a referee.

In recognition of almost four decades of service to the Game, Australia’s first active female referee was presented with the IRB Development Award to add to the numerous other accolades she has received since first taking up the whistle.

The IRB Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service 2013 was presented to Ian McIntosh, a coach, selector and inspiration to all those who crossed his path. Involved in rugby for 50 years, McIntosh continues to remain as passionate about Rugby as when he first started out.

Six years after moving to South Africa, Zimbabwe-born McIntosh steered the Sharks to their first-ever Currie Cup title in 1990 – a feat they were to repeat in two of the three following years, with a direct and confrontational style of play that has been mimicked continuously and to great effect in the professional era.

After a spell in charge of the Springboks in the build-up to Rugby World Cup 1995, McIntosh returned to the Sharks and delivered two more titles before retiring from coaching in 1999. “Macc” still remains heavily involved in Rugby through his role as a South Africa national selector.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB Awards recognise those who have inspired and encouraged our family to grow, to thrive and reach out. These recipients are each wonderful examples of how, through their selfless dedication to our sport and its character-building values, Rugby can change lives, bring people together and provide tremendous camaraderie.”