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'Like to see what the criteria is': The 'interesting' omission from WR's dream team

By Finn Morton
Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

When World Rugby announced the four nominees for Men’s 15s Player of the Year, there was one glaring omission which shocked the world – but the biggest surprise was still yet to come.

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The annual World Rugby Awards returned to a physical format last weekend in Monaco as the world’s best players, coaches and referees were celebrated after an incredible year.

Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant was crowned the world’s best female 15s player just a week on from her player of the match performance in the World Cup final at Eden Park.

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World No. 1 Ireland had two players nominated for the prestigious individual award in the men’s game, and flanker Josh van der Flier etched his name into rugby immortality by winning it.

There’s no denying that both players have enjoyed fantastic years, with the Irish flanker having played a key part in his sides first ever series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Van der Flier was one of four Irish players named in World Rugby’s dream team – the most of any nation – including star flyhalf and fellow nominee Johnny Sexton.

While the dream team looks brilliant on paper, the absence of a couple of stars left rugby fans from around the world in shock.

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All Blacks backrower Ardie Savea was nowhere to be found, even though many believed he should’ve received a nomination for the world’s Player of the Year – at the very least.

Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, former All Blacks hooker James Parsons said it “blows me away” that Savea missed out on the sports highest individual honour.

“If you talk about impact on the game, maybe he is a close contact for me with Johnny Sexton,” Parsons said.

“He has just dominated every side of the ball, every collision.

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“It blows me away that he missed out, and I think it’ll blow a lot of people (away) around the world, I don’t think it will just be a Southern Hemisphere thing.

“I think a lot of people up in the north really respect what Ardie has done.”

French Number Eight Gregory Alldritt was selected in the backrow ahead of Savea, along with Argentina’s Pablo Matera and Van der Flier.

While the All Blacks had an up and down international season, which included historic losses at home to Ireland and Los Pumas, Savea was consistently a standout player.

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Six-time Super Rugby champion Bryn Hall echoed Parsons’ comments, saying Savea “should’ve won” the Player of the Year award.

“That’s not to say that Alldritt hasn’t had a good season, but I think for us when the announcement came for World Player of the Year, most comments were saying it was around Ardie Savea not being involved,” Hall said.

“I think he should’ve won it as well and I’d like to see what the criteria is because no disrespect to Am but he missed the majority of a lot of the season.

“He’s missed part of the Rugby Championship, he’s missed part of the end-of-year tour, so is that decision made even before going into the Northern Hemisphere tour?

“I thought Ardie was great, and then not to even make the 15, that’s not saying Alldritt hasn’t had a great season but Ardie Savea… we would take (for) World Player of the Year.

“To not get nominated for Number Eight, it’s very, very interesting.”

French captain Antoine Dupont was also nominated for the award, but he fell just short of becoming the third player to be crowned the world’s best in back-to-back seasons.

South Africa’s Lukhanyo Am was also up for the prestigious accolade, despite only playing a handful of Test matches in 2022.

But Ireland have rightly finished the year as the sports number one ranked side after an impressive campaign.

While van der Flier ultimately reaped the rewards for the men in green’s historic year, Parsons believed another star was “unlucky” not to win the award for a second time.

“Josh van der Flier, very rare that I wouldn’t agree that a forward should win World Player of the year,” Parsons mentioned.

“I just think Jonny Sexton was probably unlucky in the sense that when he’s missing, Ireland just aren’t the same team.

“His influence on games and how critical he is to their success maybe had him ahead in my head of Van der Flier.

“But for what Van der Flier did down here and the physical dominance he’s had against every opposition, he is a worthy winner, but I probably thought Johnny Sexton would nudge him out.”

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