Ir­ish in the frame Other awards

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY -

Re­flect­ing the year that was in it, Ir­ish rugby has never been more promi­nently fea­tured at the an­nual World Rugby awards, which will take place at the Salle des Etoiles, Monte Carlo, to­mor­row evening. In ad­di­tion to Johnny Sex­ton be­ing among the five play­ers short­listed for the pres­ti­gious World Rugby Men’s XVs Player of the Year, the Ire­land team and Joe Sch­midt are also con­tenders for the Team of the Year and Coach of the Year re­spec­tively, al­though no short­list has been of­fi­cially named.

Go­ing into to­day’s fi­nal round of in­ter­na­tional fix­tures for the cal­en­dar year, Ire­land have won 10 of 11 tests in 2018, which en­com­passed a Grand Slam, a se­ries win in Aus­tralia, and home wins over Ar­gentina and, his­tor­i­cally, the All Blacks. The All Blacks won 11 of 13 matches, in­cor­po­rat­ing the de­fence of both their Rugby Cham­pi­onship and Bledis­loe Cup tri­umphs. Be­yond the world’s num­ber one and two ranked sides, it’s hard to think of any se­ri­ous ri­vals, al­though the New Zealand sides that won the World Cup Sev­ens men’s and women’s ti­tles in San Fran­cisco would have their claims as well.

In ad­di­tion, Jor­dan Lar­mour is one of only three play­ers short­listed for the World Rugby Break­through Player of the Year. Af­ter mak­ing his test de­but against Italy in Feb­ru­ary, the 21-year-old made six ap­pear­ances off the bench in the Grand Slam and se­ries vic­tory in Aus­tralia, be­fore scor­ing a hat-trick on his full de­but against the Ital­ians this month.

The favourite for this award, how­ever, is South African left wing Aphiwe Dyan­tyi. The 24-year-old marked his Spring­bok de­but with a try against Eng­land in June, and started all 12 of South Africa’s tests in 2018, scor­ing six tries, in­clud­ing braces in the wins over Ar­gentina and New Zealand. The 25-year-old All Blacks loose­head prop Karl Tu’inukuafe com­pletes the short­list. CJ Stander’s try for Ire­land in their Grand Slam-seal­ing win over Eng­land at Twick­en­ham is one of four tries short­listed for the Try of the Year 2018. How­ever, this try faces stiff com­pe­ti­tion – from Beau­den Bar­rett’s fourth try at Eden Park in the se­cond Bledis­loe Cup test when com­plet­ing a pitch-length counter-at­tack; Brodie Re­tal­lick’s try against Aus­tralia in Syd­ney; and Sean Mait­land’s pitch-length try against Eng­land at Mur­ray­field which was ini­ti­ated by “that pass” by Finn Rus­sell.

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