“He grabbed his opportunity and never looked back.”
World Player of the Season for Antoine Dupont, in our House of Rugby awards, but Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Beirne may yet mix it with the France scrumhalf for the World Rugby accolade if they continue their good form on British & Irish Lions duty.
With the domestic season wrapping up (some of the Irish provinces may have only one game left), and the PRO14 and European competitions complete, we felt it was appropriate to start handing out some player awards.
On the latest House of Rugby episode [LISTEN from 1:00:30 below], Eimear Considine, Fergus McFadden and Ian Madigan discussed their picks for Best Player (provincial and Test level), Unsung Hero, Best Women’s Player and the young gun that has most impressed.Robbie Henshaw has produced the goods, in both the 12 and 13 jerseys, this season. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)
Although we still have the destination of The Rainbow Cup to decide, the rejigged end-of-season competition has a very relaxed feel to it. Some clubs have opted to blood new players while others, such as Benetton and Munster are keenly contesting it.
The big trophies have already been decided for the Irish provinces, though, so it seemed apt to hand out some player awards. The first ones up were ‘Best Player’ at Test and provincial levels.
“I think Robbie Henshaw for both,” said Madigan.
“For Leinster and Ireland, he’s had a great year and I’m very excited to see what he can do on this Lions tour. He’s at the very peak of his career and this tour has come at the right time for him. It would be very hard to argue against him.”
Considine put forward Connacht’s Tom Daly as a provincial player candidate, as well as Mike Haley (Munster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster) and the Ulster duo of John Cooney and Mike Lowry.
Asked for his take, Fergus McFadden agreed that Henshaw was right up there, along with a Munster forward. With the deciding vote, he split the awards.
“Robbie and Tadhg Beirne,” he commented. “At Test level, Tadhg Beirne. His journey from going on the Lions tour to where he was before the Six Nations, people didn’t think he would be starting for Ireland but he literally grabbed his opportunity when there were injuries, and he never looked back.”
McFadden also praised Jack Conan for making a great run of it from early 2021 on, and getting richly rewarded with a Lions call-up. When it came to Underrated Player of the Year, that went to Ulster’s Nick Timoney, who McFadden tipped as a possible Ireland debutant in their summer Tests against USA and Japan.
Along the way, there were also honourable mentions for Gavin Coombes, Iain Henderson, Ben Healy, Ethan McIlroy, Conor Fitzgerald and Dorothy Wall.
HOUSE OF RUGBY 2020/21 AWARDS
Best Player (Tests): Tadhg Beirne
Best Player (Provincial): Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
Unsung Hero: Nick Timoney (Ulster)
Best Young Player: Craig Casey (Munster)
Best Women’s Player: Beibhinn Parsons (Connacht & Ireland)
World Player of the Year: Antoine Dupont (Toulouse & France)
WATCH THAT FULL EPISODE HERE: