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Ireland dominate World Rugby Awards

By Sam Warlow
Jonathan Sexton and Joe Schmidt. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Johnny Sexton, Joe Schmidt and the Irish national side received three of the top prizes at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco.


Named Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Team of the Year respectively, the ceremony capped an incredible year for the men in green, which saw them lose just one match all season.

To win his award, 33-year-old Sexton beat out New Zealanders Rieko Ioane and Beauden Barrett – the latter in the running for his third consecutive award – and South Africans Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx.

Sexton was an instrumental part of Ireland’s success in 2018, steering them to victory over Barrett and the All Blacks last weekend. His year was also highlighted by titles with Leinster in both the Pro14 and Champions Cup.

During the ceremony, Sexton was left speechless thanks to a throat infection so Ireland captain Rory Best had to deliver a speech on his behalf.

“Johnny’s got too big time to speak for himself, so I’m up here to speak for him,” Best joked. The hooker then read a few notes Sexton had made.

“Thank you to my teammates and coaches. If a Number 10 wins an award like this it is due to the team around him and his coaches making his job easier,” he read.


“We have some of the best coaches in the world and are led superbly.”

Sexton also gave a nod to the other nominees.

Sexton is just the second Irishman to win the award after hooker Keith Wood secured the top gong in 2001.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt edged All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus to scoop the Coach of the Year award for the first time in his five-year tenure.

Ireland were also named Team of the Year after rising to number two in the World Rankings, secured a Six Nations Grand Slam – their first since 2009 – and beat the All Blacks in Ireland for the first time. Their only loss was an 18-9 defeat at the hands of Australia during their June tour.


France fullback Jessy Tremouliere was named Womens Player of the Year. She scored five tries in France’s Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign, and was one of four French players nominated for the award alongside Black Ferns captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili.

Other major awards included Breakthrough Player of the Year, where South African winger Aphiwe Dyantyi edged inspirational All Blacks prop Karl Tu’inukuafe.

New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde and the United States’ Perry Baker won their respective Sevens Player of the Year awards, both for the second year in a row.

Brodie Retallick’s now-famous dummy and score against Australia was awarded Try of the Year.


World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year –  Winner – Johnny Sexton (Ireland).
World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year – Winner –  Jessy Tremouliere (France).
World Rugby Team of the Year  – Winner – Ireland
World Rugby Coach of the Year  –  Winner – Joe Schmidt (Ireland)
World Rugby Referee Award  – Winner – Angus Gardner
Try of the Year  –  Winner –  Brodie Retallick (All Blacks)
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year – Winner – Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year – Winner – Perry Baker (USA)?
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year – Winner – Michaela Blyde (Black Ferns Sevens)
IRPA Special Merit Award  – Winners: DJ Forbes (NZ), Stephen Moore (Australia)

World Rugby Referee Award – Angus Gardner (Australia)

The 34-year-old has shown strong development over the last two years, highlighted by the calibre of matches he is now being appointed to referee, and is now one of the leading referees in international rugby. A good communicator on and off the field, Gardner referred the first of his 19 tests in 2011 and took charge of the Super Rugby final for the first time earlier this year.

Award for Character – Doddie Weir (Scotland)

A veteran of 61 tests for his beloved Scotland from 1990-2000, Doddie Weir has shown tremendous courage and character in the two years since he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. A devasting illness with no cure, the 48-year-old has made it his mission to raise awareness of the disease and money for research through his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation. The drive he showed in his playing career now inspires those around him as he faces his biggest challenge.

Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – Yoshir? Mori (Japan)

The former Prime Minister of Japan and former President of the Japan Rugby Football Union has been instrumental in growing the game in Asia and more specifically in Japan with his enthusiasm and dedication culminating in Japan securing the hosting rights to Rugby World Cup 2019. His service to sport and society was recognised in 2017 when he was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers by His Majesty the Emperor Akihito, The Emperor of Japan.

Spirit of Rugby Award in association with Dove Men+Care – Jamie Armstrong, The Clan (Scotland)

Trust Rugby International pioneers unified rugby in Scotland. Through the inspirational leadership of Development Director Jamie Armstrong, it brings together able, disabled and disadvantaged young people into a close-knit team called The Clan.

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