Flying Fijians coach among nominees revealed for World Rugby Awards 2023

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World Rugby has revealed the first shortlists for the prestigious World Rugby Awards 2023, which will be presented at the Opéra Garnier in Paris on Sunday, 29 October.

Winners in 11 categories are set to be honoured in a star-studded showcase taking place just hours after the conclusion of a record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2023 at Stade de France.

The Rugby World Cup-winning team will be part of a glittering Parisian guest list, featuring generations of rugby greats and special guests from across society.

The annual ceremony, which is being held at the spectacular Opéra Garnier for the first time, will celebrate a landmark year as rugby has marked its 200th anniversary with extraordinary achievements and new records as well as new beginnings.

In particular, the arrival of WXV, which is taking place until 4 November, means that nominees and winners in a further four women’s categories will be announced and celebrated separately, at the conclusion of a tournament that represents a major milestone for the sport.

The six shortlists revealed today have been selected by the esteemed World Rugby Awards panels. Fans will also be given their say, with online voting open until 18:00 CEST (GMT +2) on Saturday, 28 October to determine the winner of the International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year category.

Overall, eight countries are represented among the first nominee announcements, with New Zealand leading the way with nine nominations across six categories.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “All those nominated today deserve not only our congratulations but also our thanks for everything they have contributed, on and off the field, to inspire fans and players worldwide, driving rugby forward in 2023 in line with our sport’s values.

“The strength of rugby is its players, coaches, officials and volunteers, and these shortlists provide a vivid snapshot of a sport that is thriving globally in its 200th year. One day after we crown the Rugby World Cup 2023 champions, we look forward once again to uniting our global family and presenting a wider cast of winners with the ultimate accolades in our sport – the World Rugby Awards.”

WORLD RUGBY AWARDS 2023 | NOMINEES
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in partnership with HSBC

*Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
* Maddison Levi (Australia)
*Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand)
* Reapi Ulunisau (Fiji)

This quartet have all been nominated for this award previously, with Black Ferns Sevens flyer Michaela Blyde the only winner – in both 2017 and 2018. Blyde and Tyla Nathan-Wong were again at the heart of New Zealand’s latest title success, although it was Maddison Levi who was the top try-scorer with 57 across seven events – a record for a single women’s Series. Reapi Ulunisau, who burst onto the scene at Tokyo 2020, remains an influential player for Fiji and a threat from anywhere on the field.

World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in partnership with HSBC

*LeroyCarter (New Zealand)
* Rodrigo Isgro (Argentina)
* Marcos Moneta (Argentina)
* Akuila Rokolisoa (New Zealand)

The top two teams in the 2023 Series provide all four nominees with Leroy Carter and hot-stepper Akuila Rokolisoa playing a key part in the All Blacks Sevens’ 14th title. Marcos Moneta and Rodrigo Isgro, meanwhile, contributed 80 tries between them to an historic season for Argentina which saw them win three Cup titles from six finals to finish as runners-up and secure qualification for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. Isgro’s form in sevens also saw him called up to the Argentina squad for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year

* Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland, v England on 4 February)
* Damian Penaud (France, v Ireland on 11 February)
* Hugo Keenan (Ireland, France on 11 February)
*Vinaya Habosi (Fiji, v Georgia on 1 October)

Three tries from the Six Nations and one from Rugby World Cup 2023 make up the shortlist – including two in the same match, Ireland v France in Dublin in February. Hugo Keenan scored the opening try of that match, taking an inside pass from Finlay Bealham to slice through the French defence before throwing a dummy and touching down. Damian Penaud hit back for France, collecting a flicked pass from Thomas Ramos in his own 22 to set off and find Anthony Jelonch in support, the flanker charging into Ireland’s half before passing back to his winger to finish off the move.

Duhan van der Merwe’s try in the Calcutta Cup match was a solo effort, receiving the ball just inside Scotland’s half and finding a gap in the England defence before shrugging off five tackles as he wound his way through to touch down. Vinaya Habosi’s try against Georgia had it all, quick hands moving the ball along the line, a through-the-legs pass from Selesitino Ravutaumada and a charging run by Levani Botia before the flanker managed to offload while falling in the tackle for the supporting Habosi to score.

World Rugby Coach of the Year

* Andy Farrell (Ireland)
*Ian Foster (New Zealand)
* Simon Raiwalui (Fiji)
* Jacques Nienaber (South Africa)

Ian Foster and Jacques Nienaber have led their respective teams to the Rugby World Cup 2023 final and would like nothing more than to bow out of their roles with a record fourth Webb Ellis Cup lifted for their nations. Andy Farrell has taken Ireland to the top of the World Rugby Men’s Rankings, but his side fell once more at the quarter-final hurdle. Simon Raiwalui, meanwhile, stepped in as Fiji coach in February and had an instant impact on the players who not only reached a first RWC quarter-final for 16 years but also a first win over Australia for 69 years.

World Rugby Men’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year in partnership with Tudor

*Louis Bielle-Biarrey (France)
* Manie Libbok (South Africa)
*Mark Tele’a (New Zealand)
*Tamaiti Williams (New Zealand)

In a year when many debutants have shone on the global stage, this quartet stood out with All Blacks prop Tamaiti Williams only the third front-row to be nominated for this award. Team-mate Mark Tele’a scored the opening try of RWC 2023 against France and is a constant threat, as is 20-year-old Louis Bielle-Biarrey – the youngest contender – who has quickly established himself in a dangerous French back three and started four of their five RWC 2023 matches. Manie Libbok has seized the opportunity afforded to him with injuries at fly-half to catch the eye with his open play, not least his outrageous no-look kick-pass assist against Scotland.

World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in partnership with Mastercard

*Bundee Aki (Ireland)
*Antoine Dupont (France)
* Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
*Ardie Savea (New Zealand)

An even split of forwards and backs who have all been at the heart of their nations’ successes in 2023. Centre Bundee Aki was in inspired form at RWC 2023, scoring five tries in a tournament that saw him play his 50th test for Ireland. A test centurion, Eben Etzebeth continues to be a towering presence in the Springbok lineout while also weighing in with important tries as his score in the quarter-final defeat of France showed. Fellow finalist Ardie Savea always seems to be everywhere on the pitch for the All Blacks, his tireless work-rate evident for all to see in the quarter-final defeat of Ireland. Finally, scrum-half Antoine Dupont is not only the captain of France but the heartbeat of the team that has captured the imagination of the French public, despite their RWC heartbreak, with his constant threat around the pitch.

Other categories being awarded on Sunday, 29 October

* Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service
*International Rugby Players Special Merit Award
* Rugby for All Award
*World Rugby Referee Award
*World Rugby Men’s 15s Dream Team of the Year in partnership with Capgemini

Categories awarded following the conclusion of WXV

*World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in partnership with Mastercard
*World Rugby Women’s 15s Dream Team of the Year in partnership with Capgemini
*World Rugby Women’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year in partnership with Tudor
*International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year

SOURCE: WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS