2010: New Zealand claim top IRB Awards

(IRB.COM) Friday 31 December 2010
 2010: New Zealand claim top IRB Awards
Richie McCaw and Graham Henry, two of New Zealand's five IRB Award winners in 2010 - IRB/Phil Walter

New Zealand had a year to remember in 2010, the All Blacks winning 13 of 14 Tests and claiming the Tri Nations title with a clean sweep, the Black Ferns winning a fourth successive Women’s Rugby World Cup and the Baby Blacks completing a hat-trick of IRB Junior World Championship titles with a sublime display in Argentina.

It was perhaps, therefore, no surprise that New Zealand claimed all of the major accolades in the IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline with captain and talisman Richie McCaw named Player of the Year, the All Blacks the Team of the Year and Graham Henry as Coach of the Year earlier this month.

This trio of honours came on the back of Under 20 wing Julian Savea being named IRB Junior Player of the Year in June after ending the Junior World Championship in Argentina as top try scorer, a feat fellow flying wing Carla Hohepa also achieved – albeit jointly with Canadian Heather Moyse – in being named Women’s Personality of the Year in September.

There was also recognition for Mikaele Pesamino, who scored a remarkable 56 tries on the IRB Sevens World Series to help Samoa claim a first ever overall title,  much to the delight of the people back home in the Pacific island with a national holiday declared in their honour.

IRB Player of the Year: Richie McCaw

Inspirational New Zealand captain Richie McCaw was named IRB Player of the Year for a record third time, becoming the only player to win it two years in a row in the process, after seeing off competition from Mils Muliaina, Victor Matfield, Imanol Harinordoquy, David Pocock and Kurtley Beale.

Labelled “a phenomenal captain” by Henry, the flanker – who turns 30 today – led by example every time he took to the field in 2010 and was at his foraging best at the breakdown, while also scoring some crucial tries to spark the All Blacks on the comeback trail.

McCaw also became, in tandem with Muliaina, the most capped All Black of all time against Ireland on 20 November and is on course to become his country’s first centurion at Rugby World Cup 2011.

“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,” said IRB Awards panel convenor John Eales.

Click here for more details >>

IRB Team of the Year: New Zealand

New Zealand played a brand of attacking rugby in 2010 that many could only sit back and admire as they cast aside Australia and South Africa to claim the first clean sweep of the extended Tri Nations.

There was one blot on the landscape, a 26-24 Bledisloe Cup loss to Australia in Hong Kong on 30 October, which denied New Zealand the chance to surpass Lithuania’s record of 18 consecutive Test match victories.

“It’s been a good year and everyone has made a huge effort, from the coaches right through all the players. It’s been a lot of fun as well to work with quality players, and I just love playing Rugby and especially international Rugby,” said McCaw.

IRB Coach of the Year: Graham Henry

The recipient of this award for a record fourth time, Graham Henry oversaw Tri Nations success and a third Grand Slam tour of Britain and Ireland in six years during the course of 2010.

Only Australia managed to beat his New Zealand side, although there were a couple of close calls in the Tri Nations, with unbeaten series in June and November yielding some impressive results, including a 66-28 defeat of Ireland and 49-3 rout of Scotland.

IRB Women's Personality of the Year: Carla Hohepa

Carla Hohepa was one of a number of players to stand out at Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 in England, the 25-year-old's combination of speed, agility and creativity with a try-scoring instinct making her a threat from anywhere on the pitch.

One of the first female IRB Keep Rugby Clean Ambassadors, the flying wing ended the tournament as the joint top try-scorer with seven, including a vital one in the final as New Zealand beat England 13-10 to claim a fourth successive title. 

"I can't take all the credit for it but it's an awesome honour to win this award," said Hohepa, who pipped England duo Maggie Alphonsi and Danielle Waterman and Australia wing Nicole Beck to the accolade.

Click here for more details >>

VIDEO: Carla Hohepa receives IRB accolade


IRB Junior Player of the Year: Julian Savea 

Following in the footsteps of compatriots Luke Braid and Aaron Cruden, the two previous winners of this prestigious Age Grade award, Julian Savea equalled the record of eight tries in a single tournament at the IRB Junior World Championship in Argentina in June.

Described by commentators as a "smaller Jonah Lomu", the powerful and athletic wing was almost impossible to stop when in full flight, leaving defenders in his wake and scoring some memorable tries, albeit none in New Zealand’s 62-17 defeat of Australia in the final.

Savea beat off stiff competition from his captain Tyler Bleyendaal, Australia centre Robbie Coleman and Argentina fly half Ignacio Rodriguez Muedra to receive the award from IRB Vice Chairman Bill Beaumont after the final in Rosario.

Click here for more details >>

VIDEO: Julian Savea collects Junior accolade

IRB Sevens Player of the Year: Mikaele Pesamino

The second Samoan to receive the award after Uale Mai in 2006, Mikaele Pesamino was an obvious choice, having proved a remarkable match-winner as Samoa won titles in Las Vegas, Adelaide, Hong Kong and Edinburgh en route to a first IRB Sevens World Series crown.

Pesamino scored 56 tries across the eight events - 23 more than any other player - and saw off the challenge of compatriots Lolo Lui and Alafoti Fa'osiliva and England playmaker Ben Gollings to receive the award in Edinburgh.

"I wanted to be the top try scorer this year and I wanted to be the Player of the Year and I feel great, I feel happy, not only for me but also for my team mates, my family all the way from Samoa," admitted Pesamino.

Click here for more details >> 

Spirit of Rugby: Virreyes Rugby Club

Founded in 2002 in a community blighted by social deprivation in Argentina, Virreyes Rugby Club provides care, food and a focus for youngsters which is linked to attendance and dedication at school.

Built on the values of good discipline and developing positive life skills which are aliied to the core values of Rugby, the club now trains more than 500 players aged six to 19 and has touched the lives of many local families.

"Virreyes is the launching point for kids to go out and take on the world. The symbolism of the game on the pitch must be the same as life off the pitch. There are no stars, a Rugby team must work together and be there for each other," said founder Marcos Julianes.

Click here for more details >>

Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service: Jean-Claude Baque

Jean-Claude Baque was presented with the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service 2010 in recognition of the significant contribution the Frenchman has made as a pioneering coach and administrator and a true champion of international Age Grade Rugby and the development of the Game within Europe.

A successful player and particularly coach, Baque is a former Vice President of the Fédération Française de Rugby and was appointed President of the Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA) in 1998.

“I am delighted that this Award is going to a man who has contributed so much to the development of Rugby throughout Europe and someone who truly embodies the attributes of integrity, passion, determination and dedication that are central to the IRB Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

Click here for more details >>

IRB Development Award: Brian O'Shea

Brian O'Shea received the IRB Development Award at the John Eales Medal function in Sydney in October in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the global development of the Game in a career spanning more than 50 years.

A former player and coach, O'Shea has made significant contributions to coach education for the past 27 years at state, national and international level and is currently working with the Pacific Islands.

“Brian O’Shea has dedicated his whole life to the development of Rugby, introducing new people to Rugby through coaching and coach education and supporting elite players who all speak of his integrity and passion,” said IRB Council Member Peter McGrath, who presented O'Shea with the Award.

Click here for more details >>

IRB Referee Award: Colin High

Colin High was presented with the IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service in November in recognition of his contribution at all levels of the Game across a 57-year career, from playing and refereeing to establishing a reputation as one of the world's foremost Referee Assessors.

High broke new ground when appointed the RFU's first full time National Referees Manager back in 1997 and has driven referee development in the professional era in England, nurturing the development of elite referee talent.

“Colin’s contribution to refereeing cannot be underestimated. He was the pioneer for the giant strides that have been made in refereeing and everyone in the Game should be grateful for the huge contribution he has and continues to make. No-one is more deserving of this award,” said Ed Morrison, the RFU's Head of Elite Referee Development.

Click here for more details >>