World Rugby has announced the shortlist of players for the 2019 Player of the Year award and there are some major omissions.
Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje, arguably England’s two best performing players this year, have both failed to receive nominations and will have to be content with a potential Team of the Year award.
There are also no candidates on the shortlist from Japan, who have had a landmark year. Their outside backs and loose forwards, in particular, all had outstanding World Cups.
On the other side of the coin, Taufete’e’s deserved nomination is a sign that tier-two teams aren’t getting snubbed,
The nominees were decided by who’s who of former players, including Richie McCaw, John Smit, George Gregan, Maggie Alphonsi, Melodie Robinson, Fiona Coghlan, Brian O’Driscoll, Fabien Galthié, Agustín Pichot and Seilala Mapusua.
International players have also had the opportunity to vote to determine the nominees of the prestigious awards.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year awards are the ultimate accolade for test players and this year there have been an exceptional number of outstanding candidates. I would like to congratulate all 11 players who, deservingly, have been nominated for this year’s award.”
WORLD RUGBY MEN’S 15S PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
PIETER-STEPH DU TOIT (SOUTH AFRICA)
A linchpin in the South African pack, Du Toit has started eight of the Springboks’ 10 tests in 2019 and been an unused replacement in the RWC 2019 win over Canada. The towering 27-year-old may have flitted between second-row and flanker in the early days of his international career, but he has made the No.7 jersey his own over the last two years and his work-rate and versatility mean he is one of the first names down on Rassie Erasmus’ team sheet.
TOM CURRY (ENGLAND)
The youngest of the nominees at only 21, Curry has been at his destructive best during RWC 2019, tormenting teams at the breakdown and winning turnover ball with regularity as one half of England’s dynamic flanker pairing with Sam Underhill. A strong ball carrier who was named Player of the Match in the quarter-final against Australia, he has started 13 of England’s 14 tests in 2019, beginning the year at openside before switching to blindside in an inspired move by Eddie Jones.
ALUN WYN JONES (WALES)
He may easily be the oldest of the nominees at 34, but Jones is playing some of the best rugby of his career in 2019 – a year in which he has become his country’s most-capped player and moved to joint second in the history of the game. The towering second-row is a master in the lineout and carries the ball endlessly during a game, his energy levels seeming to have no limit as he pushes Wales forward. Captaincy clearly agrees with Jones, who has already led Wales to the Six Nations Grand Slam this year.
CHESLIN KOLBE (SOUTH AFRICA)
The dancing feet of Kolbe have lit up Rugby World Cup 2019 with the diminutive winger showing that size isn’t everything, his footwork and pace allowing him to turn a defence inside out and leave players clutching at thin air in his wake. The Springbok, who turned 26 earlier this week, has started six tests in 2019 and scored five tries, including two in the pool stage against Italy when he was named Player of the Match. An ankle injury ruled him out of the semi-final with Wales but the Springboks will be delighted he is back for the final.
ARDIE SAVEA (NEW ZEALAND)
With the ability to play anywhere across the back-row, Savea has been at his rampaging best in 2019, starting eight of the 10 tests played by New Zealand and coming off the bench against Canada in the RWC 2019 pool stage. His work-rate is such that you would be forgiven for thinking there was more than one Savea on the pitch at times, turning over ball at the breakdown, charging at the defence or popping up in a flowing attack.
JOE TAUFETE’E (USA)
The Eagles hooker has enjoyed a record-breaking year in international rugby, his hat-trick against Uruguay in March making him the most prolific try-scorer in front-row history – 18 tries in just 21 tests smashing Keith Wood’s record that had stood for nearly 14 years in a third of the caps. Taufete’e ended the Americas Rugby Championship as the top try scorer with six and was a key member of the Eagles’ squad for RWC 2019, starting all four matches in Japan.
– with World Rugby
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