Beauden Barrett and Portia Woodman have been named World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Player of the Year 2017 in association with Mastercard respectively at the World Rugby Awards in Monte Carlo on Sunday.
On a night to remember in the presence of Their Serene Highnesses Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco and greats of the game past and present, the rugby family celebrated some outstanding achievers.
Barrett becomes 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 from 2009-10.
He received the award ahead of four other nominees in All Blacks team-mate Rieko Ioane, England and British Lions duo Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje and Australia full-back 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.”
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 team-mate Kelly Brazier, England winger Lydia Thompson and France back-row duo Romane Menager and Safi N’Diaye.
Woodman said: “Obviously just winning the team of the year award shows just how good our team is, and they make me look good; they do all the work and I am out there on the sideline just waiting for the ball. My mum wasn’t a big fan of me playing rugby, but I think she was going to support me no matter what and, without them (my parents), I obviously wouldn’t be where I am because they pushed me to do everything I can to the best of my ability.”
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.”
World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard – Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
The 26-year-old continues the All Blacks’ dominance of this prestigious accolade with the world champions having accounted for the last six winners. Barrett becomes only the second player to win back-to-back awards after another impressive season in the No.10 jersey in which he celebrated his 50th test against Samoa with a two-try, 24-point haul and a piece of All Blacks history alongside his brothers, and finished the Lions series as top point scorer with 41. The attack-minded fly-half, who is equally at home at full-back, continued to torment defences with his instinctive play and captained the All Blacks for the first time in the non-capped victory over the Barbarians earlier this month.
Nominees: Owen Farrell (England and British and Irish Lions), Israel Folau (Australia), Rieko Ioane (New Zealand), Maro Itoje (England and Lions)
World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard – Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
The 26-year-old played every minute of the Black Ferns’ successful WRWC 2017 campaign, scoring 13 tries – including eight against Hong Kong in the pool stages and four in their semi-final win over USA, one of which was nominated for IRPA Try of the Year – to finish as top try and point-scorer. If she wasn’t using her pace, power and unbelievable footwork to score herself she was creating opportunities for those around her. The former netballer, who only returned to 15s in May, played all eight of New Zealand’s tests in 2017, scoring 16 tries in total to take her career record to a remarkable 22 in just 16 tests.
Nominees: Kelly Brazier (New Zealand), Romane Menager (France), Safi N’Diaye (France), Lydia Thompson (England)
World Rugby Team of the Year – New Zealand Women’s 15s
New Zealand won a fifth Women’s Rugby World Cup title in August after beating defending champions England 41-32 in a thrilling finale in Belfast, a result which took them back to the top of the World Rugby Women’s Rankings. The Black Ferns, with coach Glenn Moore and captain Fiao’o Faamausili leading the way, were the top point and try scorers in the tournament. This success came after New Zealand hosted the International Women’s Rugby Series in June with the hosts beating Australia and Canada before losing to England. New Zealand are the first women’s team to receive the accolade.
Nominees: England Men’s 15s, New Zealand Men’s 15s
World Rugby Coach of the Year – Eddies Jones (England)
Now in his second year, Eddie Jones has led England to nine victories in 2017 with the only loss coming against Ireland in the Six Nations finale to halt his winning run as coach at 17 tests. A second Six Nations title was followed by a two-test series win in Argentina in June and victories over Argentina, Australia and Samoa this month to take his record to 22 wins in his 23 tests in charge.
Nominees: Warren Gatland (British and Irish Lions), Steve Hansen (New Zealand)
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in association with TUDOR – Rieko Ioane (New Zealand)
The winger marked his All Blacks debut last November with a try against Italy, but it is in 2017 that Rieko Ioane truly made his mark on the international stage with 10 tries in 11 starts. The 20-year-old scored twice in his first start against the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park and claimed another double in his first Bledisloe Cup match in August. Blessed with pace and strength, Ioane was joint-top try-scorer in the Rugby Championship with five after beating the most defenders, making the most clean breaks and metres in the competition.
Nominees: Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina), Damian Penaud (France)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC – Perry Baker (USA)
The oldest of the nominees at 31, Perry Baker enjoyed a season to remember in 2016-17, topping the charts for tries and points scored on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with 57 and 285 respectively. The USA Eagles flyer has electric pace and can make something out of nothing, but has now developed the all-round game to go with his natural speed.
Nominees: Rosko Specman (South Africa), Jerry Tuwai (Fiji)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC – Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
Michaela Blyde enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2016-17 under new Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting. Her potential had always been clear to see, but Portia Woodman’s move into the forwards gave her the chance to make a starting spot her own. Blyde’s performances saw her finish as top try-scorer with 40, take her place in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Dream Team and be named DHL Impact Player of the Series.
Nominees: Ghislaine Landry (Canada), Ruby Tui (New Zealand)
World Rugby Referee Award – Joy Neville (Ireland)
A veteran of 70 caps for Ireland, Joy Neville is now creating history in the world of refereeing in a year that has seen her take charge of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 final in August and referee her first men’s international in Rugby Europe’s Conference 2 North in October. This month she is acting as assistant referee for three men’s matches, having recently signed a professional contract with the IRFU.
Award for Character – Eduardo Oderigo (Argentina)
A criminal lawyer, Eduardo “Coco” Oderigo spent 15 years working in the courts of Buenos Aires before a visit to Unit 48 at San Martin prison gave him the idea of teaching rugby and its core values to the inmates. Fundación Espartanos was born out of his desire to help prisoners reintegrate into society and weekly training sessions began in 2009. Eight years on, more than 500 prisoners are involved in the programme which has spread throughout Argentina, supported by local clubs and coaches. In this time many prisoners have changed their lives and learnt new values, helping to reduce the reoffending rate of those released from Espartanos to fall dramatically to just two per cent.
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – Marcel Martin (France)
Regarded as a pioneer and visionary figure, Marcel Martin spent more than 50 years involved in the development of rugby in France and was one of the main architects of the major political and sporting changes in rugby. A long-time Board member of the Fédération Française de Rugby Board and Ligue Nationale de Rugby, he was also an IRB Council Member. His service to the game he loved was recognised with the IRB Chairman’s Award in 2005 and he was made an Officier de la Legion d’Honneur in 2014. He passed away in May, aged 83.
IRPA Try of the Year – Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina, v England)
After more than 14,000 votes were cast by rugby fans on Twitter and guests at the World Rugby Awards, Joaquin Tuculet’s score for Argentina in the first test against England in June was named the IRPA (International Rugby Players’ Association) Try of the Year 2017. A breakout that began deep in his team’s own 22 after Juan Manuel Leguizamon fielded an England kick and the ball found its way to Matias Orlando, the centre slicing through the visitor’s defence with ease. He found Emiliano Boffelli in support, the test debutant straightening the attack before releasing Tuculet to sprint away from the defence to finish off the free-flowing move.
Nominees: Gela Aprasidze (Georgia U20 v Ireland U20), Sean O’Brien (British and Irish Lions v New Zealand), Portia Woodman (New Zealand v USA)
IRPA Special Merit Award – Richie McCaw (New Zealand) and Rachael Burford (England)
Two-time Rugby World Cup winning captain Richie McCaw is the world’s most capped player with 148 tests for the All Blacks, 110 of them as captain. A three-time World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year, the 36-year-old was an outstanding leader on the field but also off it, continually demonstrating the highest levels of awareness and responsibility. The inaugural IRPA Southern Hemisphere President, McCaw was an active NZRPA Board member for 13 years, focusing on creating environments for players to thrive on and off the field. He is also Patron of the New Zealand Rugby Foundation and the Catwalk Trust, supporting players and their families following serious injuries and funding research aiming to overcome paralysis after spinal court injuries. He is also co-found and Patron of iSport, a charity focused on inspiring young people through sport to create a brighter future.
Rachael Burford is also a Rugby World Cup winner, having won the title with England in 2014. The 31-year-old’s other three Women’s Rugby World Cup appearances have ended in final defeats, including earlier this year in Ireland. A former England Player of the Year, Burford has also contributed extensively to player welfare and the game in general by sitting on a number of panels over the last four years, including the World Rugby Laws Review Group, Rugby Committee and Women’s Advisory Committee. She became the first female Board Member of the Rugby Players’ Association in 2014 and has been an IRPA representative and Rugby Athletes’ Commissions since then as well. Burford also runs her own girls’ rugby academy, helping to develop the next generation of players on and off the field.