DUBLIN, December 2- New Zealand captain Richie McCaw became the first player to win the International Rugby Board's player of the year award three times after receiving the 2010 edition of the prize on Wednesday.The 29-year-old flanker led an all All Black clean sweep of the major prizes with Tri-Nations champions New Zealand, beaten just once in 2010, named team of the year and Graham Henry coach of the year for a record fourth time.
Henry had previously been named IRB coach of the year in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and New Zealand were named team of the year for the fourth time in six years.
McCaw, last year’s winner and also player of the year in 2005, saw off competition for the 2010 player of the year award from team-mate Mils Muliaina, South Africa’s Victor Matfield, Imanol Harinordoquy from France and rising Australia stars David Pocock and Kurtley Beale.
But it was McCaw, who led New Zealand to 13 wins from 14 matches in 2010, who got the nod from an awards panel chaired by Australia great John Eales.
"This award is very special but wouldn’t happen without an exceptional team who are good mates, and that’s something I am equally proud of," McCaw said.
Henry added: "I am very proud to be awarded this honour again. The award reflects the hard work of the team, and I am delighted the All Blacks have also been named IRB team of the year."
He also paid tribute to McCaw, the only repeat winner of the IRB player of the year award since its inception in 2001.
"Richie McCaw is a phenomenal captain. He just gets better and better the more he does it and the team now is a very experienced side with him and Mils on 94 caps each, and nine players in the side with more than 50 caps."
Eales, who led an awards panel made up of former internationals with more than 500 Test caps between them, said: "Rugby is fortunate to have a player and person of the calibre of Richie McCaw.
"He is an outstanding captain, a world-class player and a role model for our sport. In winning the award three times, Richie has truly cemented his place right up there amongst some of the greats."
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset added: "It has been a compelling year of international rugby as we count down to what promises to be a special Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand."
Previous Winners of the IRB Player of the Year Award:
2009 – Richie McCaw (NZL)
2008 – Shane Williams (WAL)
2007 – Bryan Habana (RSA)
2006 – Richie McCaw (NZL)
2005 – Dan Carter (NZL)
2004 – Schalk Burger (RSA)
2003 – Jonny Wilkinson (ENG)
2002 – Fabien Galthie (FRA)
2001 – Keith Wood (IRL)
Previous Winners of IRB Team of the Year Award:
2009 – South Africa
2008 – New Zealand
2007 – South Africa
2006 – New Zealand
2005 – New Zealand
2004 – South Africa
2003 – England
2002 – France
2001 – Australia
Previous Winners of IRB Coach of the Year Award:
2009 – Declan Kidney (IRL)
2008 – Graham Henry (NZL)
2007 – Jake White (RSA)
2006 – Graham Henry (NZL)
2005 – Graham Henry (NZL)
2004 – Jake White (RSA)
2003 – Clive Woodward (ENG)
2002 – Bernard Laporte (FRA)
2001 – Rod Macqueen (AUS)