by Romano Lupi
MONACO. The World Rugby Awards are the ultimate accolade for excellence in rugby on and off the field from community to elite level. The 2018 event will take place on 25 November at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo, following the attendance of Princess Charlene of Monaco at the 2016 World Rugby Awards ceremony in London and after a record-breaking debut in the Principality in 2017. The world’s top players, World Rugby Hall of Fame inductees (like the rugby World Champion with the Springboks François Pienaar, trustee of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa, and advisor of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation), representatives from World Rugby member unions, and the global rugby family will gather on the red carpet to showcase the best of rugby in 2018, under the High Patronage of the Princess Charlene of Monaco.
Since the creation of her Foundation, Her Serene Highness is committed to using her influence to put an end to drowning, which is a major public health problem worldwide, and for the greater good of sport through the “Sport and Education” project. In order to celebrate the birth of H.S.H. Crown Prince Jacques and H.S.H. Princess Gabriella, since February 2015 the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation launched the Saint Devote Rugby Tournament thanks to a collaboration with the South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA). Since then, underprivileged South African children, who were chosen based on their athletic achievements, are welcome to the Principality and are in turn able to send a Monegasque team to South Africa every year. Sport plays a fundamental role in a child’s developmental process. It allows young people to learn about the importance of key values and life skills such as: respect, cooperation, honesty, fair play, interaction, communication, competition, determination and adherence to rules. In addition to participating in the rugby tournament, the children from both nations are taking part in academic and social activities in order to broaden their understanding of different cultures and lifestyles. The power and influence of sport to act as a catalyst for peace and development has long been understood. In a rugby context, players and fans show respect and friendship for each other on and off the pitch. The iconic image of Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar celebrating South Africa’s victory in the Rugby World Cup in 1995 clearly illustrated how sport can play an important role as a unifying force.
As an International Federation and Olympic Sport, World Rugby recognises this power of sport to act as a catalyst for peace and social development. “Along with the global rugby family, we have a shared responsibility to use rugby to improve lives and communities. This task is made easier thanks to a collective desire that exists across all levels of rugby to reach out and support positive development opportunities, a desire that is fuelled by rugby’s character-building values – this is the “Spirit of rugby”.” said World Rugby Chair Bill Beaumont. To help harness this spirit, World Rugby has developed the Spirit of Rugby programme, a development initiative which recognises World Rugby’s role and the attraction of rugby to organisations wishing to use it to drive sport for good projects, inviting them to submit proposals for collaboration on development projects. The Spirit of Rugby programme connects with the World Rugby mission to grow the global rugby family and vision of rugby being a sport for all, true to its values – discipline, respect, integrity, passion and solidarity. In collaboration with selected partners and stakeholders, Spirit of Rugby promotes and supports the delivery of meaningful projects across identified key themes relating to sport for development – social inclusion, gender equity, health, education, environmental sustainability and sport for all. These themes and associated projects can be directly linked to the core rugby values, like:
- Integrity – education and outreach programmes around anti-corruption, anti-doping etc.
- Respect – adopting positive environmental measures around activities/ events
- Solidarity – development projects focussing on social inclusion and equality through rugby
- Passion – develop new passion for the game through Get Into Rugby/sport for all activations
- Discipline – promote player welfare and rugby as part of a healthy lifestyle
Since its inception in 2001, the World Rugby Awards have recognised and celebrated the achievements of those involved at the highest level of the world game on the field, as well as acknowledging excellence in the areas of development and administration by those who embody the values so essential to rugby. Stars of the game, past and present, will gather to reflect on the year’s highlights as the achievements of the world’s biggest names and most successful teams are honoured.
Following a stellar year for international rugby, World Rugby has announced the shortlists for the prestigious Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year awards for 2018, which will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo on 25 November.
The nominees for World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard are:
Beauden Barrett (New Zealand): The 27-year-old could become the first player to win the prestigious accolade three years in a row after another impressive season in the All Blacks No.10 jersey. Barrett has scored seven tries in his eight tests in 2018, six of them in the Bledisloe Cup series against Australia, including a record four amid a 30-point haul at Eden Park. The attack-minded fly-half, who is equally at home at full-back, has continued to torment defences with his instinctive play this year, helping New Zealand win the series with France and defend the Rugby Championship title.
Faf de Klerk (South Africa): The scrum-half returned to the Springbok jersey after missing the 2017 test season and quickly made himself indispensable to new coach Rassie Erasmus, showing why rugby is a sport for all with his ferocious defence and fearless play despite his small stature. The 27-year-old played virtually every minute of South Africa’s Rugby Championship campaign, scoring tries against Argentina and Australia and proving a constant thorn in the side of his opposite numbers across his nine starts.
Rieko Ioane (New Zealand): Ioane, the youngest of the nominees at only 21, is shortlisted for the second year in a row, having also been named World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2017. The All Blacks winger is the top scorer in test rugby in 2018, crossing for 11 tries in his eight starts to take his career tally to an impressive 22 tries in 21 tests. Blessed with quick feet and power, Ioane’s quick acceleration means he doesn’t need much space to go around – or through – defenders.
Malcolm Marx (South Africa): South Africa’s dynamic ball-carrying hooker has played the fewest tests of the nominees with only six, having missed the Wales test and series win over England in June through injury. With five starts and a try in the win over New Zealand in Wellington, the 24-year-old has picked up where he left off in 2017, combining athleticism, power, pace and a wide skill-set in attack with the breakdown skills to turnover many a ball for South Africa.
Johnny Sexton (Ireland): The oldest of the nominees at 33, Sexton has been at the heart of Ireland’s climb to second in the World Rugby Rankings on the back off a Six Nations Grand Slam and first series win in Australia for 39 years. The veteran fly-half, a calming presence in the Irish backline, began the year by kicking a last-minute drop goal to secure victory over France and has started seven of his eight tests, coming off the bench in Ireland’s only loss to date.
The nominees for World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard are:
Pauline Bourdon (France): A player in the modern mould of French half-backs, given she is equally happy at nine or 10 as she showed during Les Bleues’ Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam campaign, starting off at fly-half before shifting to scrum-half and scoring two tries across the last three matches. Bourdon, who turns 23 on Sunday, has quick feet and an impressive step to create space for her or her team-mates but is equally strong in defence despite her small stature.
Fiao’o Faamausili (New Zealand): The oldest of the nominees at 38, the Black Ferns hooker had retired from international rugby after leading New Zealand to a fifth – her fourth – Women’s Rugby World Cup title in 2017, but she reversed that decision to pass on the experience of her record 52 caps to a refreshed squad and as captain led the world champions to back-to-back victories over Australia in August. A consistent lineout thrower and strong runner with the ball, Faamausili knows her way to the try-line as her hat-trick in the first win over Australia showed.
Gaëlle Hermet (France): Taking over the captaincy from the legendary Gaëlle Mignot was never going to be an easy task, but the back-row has flourished with the responsibility and is yet to taste defeat as Les Bleues captain, having led her country to the Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam in 2018 – before her 22nd birthday. France are blessed with back-row talent but Hermet has the all-round game with her leadership acumen combining with her power, strong running and ferocious defence.
Safi N’diaye (France): Another powerful forward, N’Diaye is nominated for the second year running despite having shifted from her traditional number eight berth into the second row since the World Cup. Easily identifiable on the pitch by her patriotic scrum cap, the 30-year-old consistently gets over the gain-line and started every match in France’s Grand Slam success. A nuisance at the breakdown, her powerful runs make her a difficult player to stop when she gets going.
Jessy Trémoulière (France): Her talent has never been in question but Trémoulière was truly at her mercurial best in 2018 and was for many the player of the Women’s Six Nations, a competition in which she finished as the top point scorer and joint-top try scorer. The 26-year-old blossomed with the faith placed on her as first-choice full-back, bursting through defences at will – scoring two tries against England, including the last-minute winner – and displaying her repertoire of kicking honed during her days as a footballer. She switched to sevens after the Grand Slam success, helping France reach their first ever World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Cup final and secure their best-ever finish of third overall.
Both shortlists were selected by the star-studded World Rugby Awards panel which comprises Rugby World Cup winners Richie McCaw, John Smit, George Gregan, Maggie Alphonsi and former England coach Clive Woodward alongside Brian O’Driscoll, Fabien Galthié and Agustín Pichot. Fans and media have been able to have their say on the players who have stood out for them in 2018 and now international captains and coaches will join the panel for one final vote to determine the winners of the prestigious awards. World Rugby Chair Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year awards are always a hotly-contested category, and with so many exceptional candidates to consider the panel have had the challenging task of picking the nominees. I would like to congratulate all 10 players who, deservingly, have been nominated for this year’s award.”
These awards are two of 13 categories of awards, including the World Rugby Team of the Year, World Rugby Coach of the Year, World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Sevens Players of the Year in association with HSBC and World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in association with Tudor.