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24th Nov 2021

Will Greenwood explains how World Rugby Player of the Year gets decided

Patrick McCarry

World Rugby Player of the Year

“Great players. Great players.”

Back in 2001, the International Rugby Board introduced that is now the World Rugby Player of the Year award. Two Irishmen, two Australians and England outhalf Jonny Wilkinson were the nominees.

The award was won that year by Ireland hooker Keith Wood and not won again by another Irish player until Johnny Sexton scooped the prize in 2018. England [Wilkinson] and Wales [Shane Williams] have one award recipient apiece while a player from New Zealand has won the accolade 10 times, so far.

There was no award given out during 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic caused serious delays and cancellations to rugby seasons. This year, it is back and the nominees are – Antoine Dupont [France], Samu Kerevi and Michael Hooper [both Australia], and England lock Maro Itoje.

The announcement of the nominations brought serious grumblings from fans of New Zealand and South Africa – the world’s No.1 and No.2 sides – that none of their players were included.

Former England and Lions star Will Greenwood was part of the World Rugby nominations panel for a number of years. He joined Seán O’Brien and Alex Goode on House of Rugby [LISTEN from 22:35 below] and explained how World Rugby Player of the Year usually gets decided.

World Rugby Player of the Year

The Player of the Year nomination process

Alex Goode questioned if, of all the four nominees, Samu Kerevi should be included as he missed the autumn internationals.

“Well, I used to be on the panel,” Will Greenwood began.

“I better be careful what I say,” joked Goode.

“The reality is, what happens is, every game is watched. Every international match is watched, through this [judging] panel. You all get allocated games and you get to award three points for the best player, two points for the second best and one point for the third best.

“What tends to often happen – unless there is a stand-out player of the year like Dan Carter or Beauden Barrett – is the All Blacks and South Africans have so many good players that the points are almost evenly distributed. When England play, you’re going to pick Itoje or Tom Curry. Antoine Dupont is nearly getting three points in every game.

“Occasionally it gets skewed against our friends, the All Blacks, but they try their best to find a way to counter-balance it. But if you’re just awarding on points per game, it’s tough to sometimes factor in the quality of the players you are playing with, and the quality of the opposition.”

World Rugby Player of the Year

Seán O’Brien on the unluckiest player to miss out

If an All Blacks players was to be selected, O’Brien would have Crusaders winger Will Jordan, who has so far racked up 16 tries in his first 12 Test appearances.

As for the stand-out Springbok, he opted for Damian De Allende over his excellent midfield partner Lukhanyo Am.

From the four actual nominations, Goode would go Dupont just ahead of Itoje. Greenwood would also go for the French scrumhalf. Hands down, O’Brien is also going for the “outstanding” Dupont.

Once the nominees are revealed, for this award and five others, rugby fans are then invited to vote on who should take hope the prize.

Also on the show, Will Greenwood spoke about his recently published book ‘World Class’, which is now available to buy.


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