LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 14 – Fly-half Beauden Barrett led a hat-trick of titles for world champions New Zealand at the World Rugby awards on Sunday as he collected Player of the Year.
The 25-year-old, who has filled the huge vacuum left by the international retirement of Dan Carter with aplomb, was joined on the podium by Steve Hansen, who won Coach of the Year, and the record-breaking All Blacks as Team of the Year.
Barrett and Hansen, who scooped the coaching award for the fourth time in five season, were central figures as New Zealand set a world record of 18 successive Test wins before being beaten by Ireland just over a week ago.
“Words can’t describe this. I remember sitting on (Dan Carter’s) table last year,” said Barrett. “I’ve really enjoyed the challenge and responsibility and being given more starts.”
Both Barrett and Hansen also relayed their best wishes to those back home after at least two people were killed following a powerful earthquake on New Zealand’s South Island.
“When something like that happens, it put things into perspective and rugby is just a game. We send them our love and wishes,” said Hansen.
There was success for England as captain Sarah Hunter won the Women’s Player of the Year gong whilst impressive England lock Maro Itoje — who was also nominated for best player — won breakthrough player of the year for his storming displays in their Six Nations Grand Slam campaign and the historic 3-0 whitewash of Australia.
On the club front the 22-year-old was equally successful as Saracens swept the Premiership title and the European Champions Cup to boot.
Barrett, 25, has been in scintillating form for the All Blacks scoring seven tries as they set the record for consecutive Test wins and eased to the Rugby Championship title.
He is the fifth successive All Black to receive the prestigious award, following in the footsteps of Carter (2012 and 2015), Kieran Read (2013) and Brodie Retallick (2014).
He received the award ahead of five other nominees — which also included All Blacks team-mate Dane Coles, England duo Billy Vunipola and fly-half Owen Farrell and veteran Irish No8 Jamie Heaslip.
– Olympic return hailed –
Hunter, capped 83 times and a World Cup winner in 2014, has played in every Test for her country this year in which they finished second to France in the Six Nations — she beat French star Gaelle Mignot and Fiao’o Fa’amausili of New Zealand to the award.
Australia’s success in the women’s sevens tournament at the Olympics — after the sport made an eye-catching return to the quadrennial sporting extravaganza — earned reward for Charlotte Caslick, who was named World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year.
Although Fiji won the men’s gold medal the individual award went to South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont — who replaced Frenchman Beranrd Lapasset after the Frenchman retired from the post this year — said it had been a memorable year for the sport.
“We have witnessed an exceptional 2016 on and off the field featuring a game-changing return to the Olympic Games after 92-years, compelling men’s and women’s World Rugby Sevens Series and of course a captivating year of fifteens Tests and championships,” said the former England captain.
“With so much collective and personal achievement during the year, it was very tough selecting our awards winners.
“The All Blacks were again dominant and thoroughly deserve their accolades, though the exploits of Fiji and Australia at the Olympics and a resurgent England under Eddie Jones were notable too.
“I would like to congratulate all our winners and nominees this evening and look forward to what promises to be a very special 2017 with the Women’s Rugby World Cup, the men’s and women’s sevens series and the British & Irish Lions tour.”
The award winners were selected by independent panels, who voted on every match from the Six Nations through to the start of the November internationals.