It hasn’t been a vintage All Blacks season by any means, but that’s not to say none of their players will be in the running for the World Rugby Player of the Year award.
In fact, peers of All Blacks captain Sam Cane believe he is the leading candidate from Ian Foster’s squad to receive a nomination for the award.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, two-test All Blacks hooker James Parsons and Maori All Blacks halfback Bryn Hall both praised Cane’s efforts in 2020, saying they were of a standard that could see him crowned best player on the planet.
Parsons suggested midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown may also be considered due to the consistency of his improved performances, but maintained that Cane was the standout All Black of the year.
“I think a consistent [player] would be Anton Lienert-Brown. He’s been consistently performing well in test matches,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“But, to me, there’s only one guy, and that’s the skip. I just think Sam Cane’s been an absolute warrior and a beast, and I think captaincy has really brought the best out of him and he’s just led from the front defensively and attacking-wise.
“In a new role, I think you can sometimes see your performances waver. I think his performances have skyrocketed with those roles.
“A little bit of a quiet achiever, and that’s what you probably want in the No. 7 role. He just gets the business done, rolls his sleeves up, so I think if there was to be a nomination, one of those two boys would have to be up there.”
Hall, speaking via Zoom from the Maori All Blacks camp as they prepare to take on Moana Pasifika in Hamilton this weekend, added that Cane had handled the challenges of being an All Blacks captain well in his first year in the full-time role.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 1, 2020
“I’d probably just go Sam Cane, if I’m being honest,” Hall said, before pointing to Cane’s leadership in the midst of the media storm that erupted after his comments about fans not knowing as much as they think they do about rugby.
“I think some other players have had good spurts, but I think if we’re talking around consistency, around test matches that we’ve played this year, I think Sammy lives up to that.
“I think to be a World Player of the Year, you’ve got to consistently play well and reach the levels of that every single time you play in a test match.
“I think the biggest thing, as well, he’s shown a great form of leadership. He’s had a lot of heat in the media, and on the weekend showed his leadership in, not only him, but the coaching staff and the leaders around him.
“But, World Player of the Year, I’d probably go Sammy. He’d probably be the only one that I’d pick from the All Blacks who’s shown a lot of consistency and played really well this year.”
Whether Cane succeeds South African loose forward Pieter-Steph du Toit as the world’s best player will be revealed next Monday when the 2020 World Rugby Awards take place in a virtual format due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The awards will celebrate not only the disruptive year of rugby that has gone by, but also the feats and achievements of players and teams from the past decade.
Eight new categories have been added to the awards ceremony to recognise rugby’s best from between 2010 and 2019 to complement the award-winners from 2020.
Of those new categories, six – Men’s and Women’s 15s Players of the Decade, Men’s and Women’s Sevens Players of the Decade, and IRP Men’s and Women’s 15s Tries of the Decade – will be decided by fan vote that opened and closed in October.
The other two new categories – Men’s and Women’s 15s Team of the Decade – will be determined by a panel comprised of various prominent rugby figures from across the globe.
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