The World Rugby player of the year shortlist has been announced, and three players from this Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final have made the list.
Elsewhere, Wales’ Grand Slam-winning captain Alun-Wyn Jones has earned a place, as has the All Blacks’ flanker Ardie Savea.
The final place on the list is taken by the United States’ Joe Taufete’e, who becomes the first player from a tier two nation to be selected. The hooker became international rugby’s top try-scoring front row forward earlier this year, overtaking 2001 player of the year Keith Wood, and now has 20 tries in 27 Tests.
Many people have been campaigning for a player from a tier two nation to make this list, and while it is something to be celebrated, the choice of player has raised a few eyebrows given the RWC we have just witnessed.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 1, 2019
After Japan’s heroics, topping Pool A by beating Ireland and Scotland, and giving South Africa a tough test in the quarter-finals, many expected a member of their team to make the list. Wingers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima, No.8 Kazuki Himeno and hooker Shota Horie are just some of the names that have been mentioned by fans on social media as candidates.
However, perhaps the most surprising omission of all is Fiji’s Semi Radradra, who many people felt was the best player in the world when he was setting the pool stages alight.
This is what has been said:
This is an odd list. Not sure why it has to be compiled before the final.
— Will Slattery (@slatterywill) November 1, 2019
All for supporting Tier 2 but Taufete’e over Itoje, Navidi, Tipuric, Sinckler, Radradra and Fukuoka is a joke https://t.co/m50y07FqeH
— C SS (@cs0mnersmith) November 1, 2019
— Gareth Hill (@gforce_14) November 1, 2019
— BallHandling Hooker (@BHHooker) November 1, 2019
These shortlists are always odd. No Maro, Radradra, or Matsushima is just bonkers, however.
— James Chubb (@TheTiercel) November 1, 2019
That's a shocking list. No Japanese, no radradra, no itoje, no klerk. Awj most likely to win with kolbe as a next man imo
— Dave Egan (@DaveEgan01) November 1, 2019
— ???????? ???? (@RiriAure) November 1, 2019
Surprising there’s no Itoje or Radradra
— Tom Sansom (@sansom_tom) November 1, 2019
— KVITI 101 (@Ftau_19) November 1, 2019
This is no discredit to Taufete’e, as his record is mightily impressive, but there were moments during Fiji’s campaign at this RWC where Radradra looked simply unstoppable. His power and movement, allied with a great offloading game, helped him top almost all ball-carrying charts at the end of the pool stages. The monstrous hit that he put on Liam Williams when Fiji faced Wales is also an example of how destructive the former league star is in defence.
The fact that the Bordeaux back is now so keenly sought after in both codes is indicative of how highly regarded he is.
Ultimately, it is nigh on an impossible task to whittle the best players in the world to a six-person shortlist, but some players may feel aggrieved. Jonathan Sexton’s reign as the world’s best will end on November 3rd as the new winner will be crowned, but Saturday’s final may determine who the gong goes to.
Press conference with Warren Gatland and Alun Wyn Jones and Gatland’s final game as Wales head coach ended in defeat. New Zealand emphatically won the World Cup bronze medal 40-17 at Tokyo Stadium.
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