World Rugby has announced the shortlists for the prestigious men’s 15s Player of the Year awards for 2016, which will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at the Hilton London Metropole on 13 November.
Following a stellar year for international rugby, the shortlists feature players who have excited and inspired fans around the world with their feats this year.
The nominees for World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year 2016 are: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand), Dane Coles (New Zealand), Owen Farrell (England), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England) and Billy Vunipola (England).
The nominees for World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year 2016 are: Fiao’o Fa’amausili (New Zealand), Sarah Hunter (England) and Gaëlle Mignot (France).
Both shortlists were selected by independent panels featuring former internationals and members of the media, who deliberated on every major test from the Six Nations through to those on 5 November.
The men’s panel is chaired by Australia’s RWC 1999-winning captain John Eales and comprises former players Will Greenwood, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Chris Paterson, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace as well as journalists Pierre Galy (AFP), Stephen Jones (The Sunday Times), Jim Kayes (TV3) and Sergio Stuart (Ole, Argentina).
The women’s panel features four former players, three of them captains in Fiona Coghlan, Marie-Alice Beauxis and RWC Sevens 2009 winner Cheryl McAfee. Two-time Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Melodie Robinson completes the panel with The Sunday Times journalist Stephen Jones.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “It is testament to the current strength of the men’s and women’s 15s game that there was so much competition for these prestigious awards.
“There is class in abundance with New Zealand’s Barrett and Coles, England’s Vunipola, Itoje and Farrell and Ireland’s Heaslip. There is also a great mix of experienced, proven campaigners and exciting young talent.
“With Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 just around the corner it is great to see such strong competition for the women’s award. Hunter, Fa’amausili and Mignot have been exceptional and thoroughly deserve their place on the shortlist.”
WORLD RUGBY MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
BEAUDEN BARRETT (NEW ZEALAND)
Any fears New Zealand fans may have had about the No.10 jersey following Dan Carter’s retirement have been eased by the scintillating displays of Beauden Barrett in 2016, the 25-year-old having carried his Super Rugby form onto the international stage. The attack-minded player, equally at home at fly-half or full-back, has scored seven tries in 2016 with defences often left flat-footed by his step and turn of pace. Barrett could reach the 50-test milestone by the end of the year.
DANE COLES (NEW ZEALAND)
The All Blacks hooker, who turns 30 next month, is the epitome of the modern-day front row, with his strength, speed and mobility often seeing him pop up on the wing to finish off a flowing move. Dane Coles has started 11 of the All Blacks’ tests in 2016, scoring four tries and strengthening his position as the world’s number one hooker. He also led the Hurricanes to a maiden Super Rugby title in 2016 and could reach 50 tests by the time New Zealand bring the curtain down on a season which saw them equal Lithuania’s record of 18 consecutive test victories.
OWEN FARRELL (ENGLAND)
This year has seen the 25-year-old utilised by coach Eddie Jones as an inside-centre, playing outside George Ford as they did for England U20s. The positional switch has not affected his influence, however, and he finished the Six Nations as top points scorer with 69 and was named man of the match in the final test against Australia in June. This is the second time the Saracens player, who has 44 caps to his name, has been nominated for this award, having lost out to Dan Carter in 2012.
JAMIE HEASLIP (IRELAND)
The Ireland vice-captain is the oldest – he turns 33 next month – and most capped of the six nominees, having reached 94 tests for Ireland and the British and Irish Lions in what is his 10th season as an international player. A talisman of the Irish squad, the Israel-born number eight has scored three tries in his nine matches in 2016, one of them against Italy being nominated for the IRPA Try of the Year 2016. Heaslip was shortlisted for World Rugby Player of the Year in 2009, an award claimed by Richie McCaw.
MARO ITOJE (ENGLAND)
The youngest of the nominees at only 22, Maro Itoje is also nominated for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year accolade after quickly establishing himself in the England second row since his debut off the bench against Italy in the Six Nations in February. England’s World Rugby U20 Championship-winning captain in 2014, Itoje shows a calmness and maturity beyond his years with nothing seeming to faze the second-row.
BILLY VUNIPOLA (ENGLAND) -pictured below
The England number eight has come of age in 2016, thriving under the guidance of new coach Eddie Jones who has given him the responsibility of vice-captain and managed to extract the best from the Sydney-born player. Billy Vunipola has played 29 tests since his debut in 2013 and was named man of the match three times in England’s Six Nations Grand Slam-winning campaign for his barnstorming displays.
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