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World Rugby Awards 2021: Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year unveiled
In an innovative digital-first format, the winners of the World Rugby Awards 2021 have been unveiled on World Rugby social and digital platforms.
The Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard have been announced with Antoine Dupont (France) and Zoé Aldcroft (England) scooping the two prestigious categories and putting an end to a week of celebration.
World Rugby Awards 2021 Winners (#WorldRugbyAwards)
World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year 2021 in association with Mastercard: Zoe Aldcroft (England)
Named England captain for the first time on her 25th birthday, Zoe Aldcroft led the Red Roses to an 89-0 victory over the USA and marked the occasion with a try. Equally comfortable in the second row or on the blindside, she has established herself in a powerful England pack with assured performances that make her one of the first names on Simon Middleton’s team list. Aldcroft started all eight of England’s matches in 2021 as the Red Roses extended their unbeaten run to 18 tests and won a third successive Women’s Six Nations title.
Nominees: Caroline Boujard (France), Poppy Cleall (England), Laure Sansus (France)
World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year 2021 in association with Mastercard: Antoine Dupont (France)
The first Frenchman to win the prestigious award since Thierry Dusautoir in 2011, scrum-half Antoine Dupont received two-thirds of the public vote, having been at the heart of a fast-developing young French team capturing the imagination ahead of a home Rugby World Cup in 2023. The 25-year-old’s reading of the game, allied with his passing speed and turn of pace, invariably mean he’s in the right place to start or finish off a flowing French attack. He crossed for three tries in the Six Nations and then was handed the captaincy for the Autumn Nations Series, leading France to three wins, including a first over New Zealand on home soil since 2000.
Nominees: Michael Hooper (Australia), Maro Itoje (England/British and Irish Lions), Samu Kerevi (Australia)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year 2021 in association with HSBC: Marcos Moneta (Argentina)
Marcos Moneta had shown glimpses of his potential on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020, but it was at the Olympic Games in Tokyo that he announced his name to the watching world with six tries to finish as top try-scorer as Argentina won the bronze medal. The 21-year-old, a Youth Olympic Games gold medallist in 2018, scored his tries at key moments, not least a double in the quarter-finals as the six – and for a period five – men of Argentina held off South Africa to keep their medal hopes alive. Moneta is the first Argentinian to win the accolade.
Nominees: Napolioni Bolaca (Fiji), Scott Curry (New Zealand), Jiuta Wainiqolo (Fiji)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year 2021 in association with HSBC: Anne-Cécile Ciofani (France)
The first French player nominated for the award, Anne-Cécile Ciofani breaks the dominance of Australia and New Zealand in this category. The 27-year-old was in inspired form in 2021, scoring seven tries in the World Rugby Sevens Repechage to book France’s ticket to Tokyo 2020 and enable her to follow in her parents’ footsteps as an Olympian. Ciofani crossed for seven tries in Tokyo, only failing to do so in the opening match against Fiji, as France claimed a deserved silver medal.
Nominees: Sarah Hirini (New Zealand), Alowesi Nakoci (Fiji), Reapi Ulunisau (Fiji)
World Rugby Men’s 15s Dream Team of the Year in association with Capgemini
Players from seven nations – Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and South Africa – have been selected in the Dream Team by the World Rugby Awards Panel with all four of the Men’s 15s Player of the Year nominees included. The players selected boast a combined 850 caps for their countries with the world champion Springboks having the most representatives with five, followed by New Zealand with three.
1. Wyn Jones (Wales)
2. Malcolm Marx (South Africa)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
5. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
6. Siya Kolisi (South Africa)
7. Michael Hooper (Australia)
8. Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
9. Antoine Dupont (France)
10. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
11. Makazole Mapimpi (South Africa)
12. Samu Kerevi (Australia)
13. Lukhanyo Am (South Africa)
14. Will Jordan (New Zealand)
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
World Rugby Women’s 15s Dream Team of the Year in association with Capgemini
Six nations are represented in the Dream Team with Canada, Italy, New Zealand and Wales each providing one player in a selection dominated by England and France, the two most successful teams in women’s rugby in 2021. With a total of 539 caps across the Dream Team, France provides six players, one more than England with all four Women’s 15s Player of the Year nominees making the cut.
1. Annaëlle Deshayes (France)
2. Agathe Sochat (France)
3. Sarah Bern (England)
4. Safi N’Diaye (France)
5. Abbie Ward (England)
6. Zoe Aldcroft (England)
7. Karen Paquin (Canada)
8. Poppy Cleall (England)
9. Laure Sansus (France)
10. Caroline Drouin (France)
11. Abby Dow (England)
12. Beatrice Rigoni (Italy)
13. Stacey Fluhler (New Zealand)
14. Caroline Boujard (France)
15. Jasmine Joyce (Wales)
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year 2021 in association with Tudor: Will Jordan (New Zealand)
One of a number of young wingers to announce their arrival on the world stage over the last 12 months, Will Jordan caught the eye not just for his try-scoring exploits for the All Blacks but also his work off the ball, unlocking defences for team-mates with regularity.
A record of 15 tries in 11 tests in 2021, including five against Tonga and a hat-trick against USA saw him become the second-fastest All Black to reach 15 tries.
Jordan only failed to score in two matches and given his phenomenal strike-rate, had he been available for all 15 tests that the All Blacks played in 2021, it’s likely he would have got the two tries he needed to set a new All Blacks record. He is the third All Black to win this award after Nehe Milner-Skudder (2015) and Rieko Ioane (2017).
Nominees: Andrew Kellaway (Australia), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Marcus Smith (England)
World Rugby Coach of the Year 2021: Simon Middleton (England Women)
Simon Middleton creates history as the first coach of a women’s team to win the prestigious award, having guided the Red Roses through a second successive calendar year unbeaten and 18 tests wins in a row, including back-to-back record wins over world champions New Zealand in November.
Middleton, in his seventh year as England head coach, saw his side score 57 tries and concede only 10 in 2021 as they added another Women’s Six Nations title to their honours roll.
Nominees: Allan Bunting/Cory Sweeney (New Zealand Women’s Sevens), Ian Foster (New Zealand Men), Dave Rennie (Australia Men)
International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year: Damian Penaud (France, v Scotland on 26 March)
Going from one 22 to another, France fashioned a score for the ages against Scotland in their delayed Six Nations matches at the Stade de France.
Taking a quick tap from a marked box kick, full-back Brice Dulin set off on an electrifying run before finding Romain Ntamack and Arthur Vincent in support.
Antoine Dupont swiftly transferred the ball away from the breakdown and Virimi Vakatawa drew the defence before offloading to Damian Penaud whose footballing skills – including a chip, case and dribble – took him over in the corner for a wonderful try.
Nominees: Lukhanyo Am (South Africa A, v British and Irish Lions on 14 July), Pierre-Louis Barassi (France, v Australia on 17 July), Luke Jacobson (New Zealand, v Argentina on 12 September)
International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year: Emilie Boulard (France, v Wales on 3 April)
Trailing 43-0 with under three minutes to play, Wales managed to clear their lines but only to near halfway where hat-trick scorer Caroline Boujard fielded the kick and immediately found Jessy Trémoulière.
France worked the ball out to Emilie Boulard on the left wing, the debutant full-back finding Maëlle Filopon on the loop around to take play into the Welsh 22.
The centre passed inside to Camille Imart, who drew the defence before passing back out to Boulard to go over in the corner.
Nominees: Sara Barattin (Italy, v Scotland on 13 September), Abby Dow (England, v France on 30 April), Romane Ménager (France, v Ireland on 17 April)
World Rugby Referee Award: Andrew Cole (Australia)
Andrew Cole refereed 44 Super Rugby games and 31 test matches from 1997-2005. The Australian’s test debut was Samoa v Tonga in 1997 with his final test being Ireland v Romania eight years later. He also refereed the second test between New Zealand and the British and Irish Lions in 2005. Selected as a referee for Rugby World Cup 1999 and 2003, he was a referee selector from 2012 through RWC 2015. Cole was head coach of referees at Rugby Australia from 2010-17 and is a Life Member of the Queensland Rugby Referees’ Association.
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service: Jacques Laurans (France)
A well-known personality in world rugby, Jacques Laurans had a successful playing career, winning junior and senior titles in France in 1958 and 1965 respectively, before moving into administration and holding roles with the Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR), World Rugby and the Six Nations. He spent 25 years with the FFR in various roles and was a World Rugby Council member for France from 1997-2016, as well as a Rugby World Cup Director from 2000-08. He is currently president of the Albert Ferrasse Federation which helps injured rugby players in France.
FANS AT THE HEART OF THE PROCESS
Six categories were open to an online public vote. From 15-21 November, rugby fans had the ability to select their deserving winner for World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s and Sevens Players of the Year as well as Men’s and Women’s Try of the Year on the Awards’ voting website.
The remaining six categories have been voted by the World Rugby Awards panel, a stellar team of rugby legends who had the hard task of selecting winners for the World Rugby Breakthrough, Coach and Referee awards as well as the newly created Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of 2021.