McCaw’s the players’ best

Richie McCaw’s fellow players have voted him the best of 2006.

McCaw beat off Dan Carter to claim the International Rugby Players’ Association’s (IRPA) award for the first time. Carter won it in 2005.

Both players are among the IRB player of the year finalists, to be confirmed on Sunday in Glasgow.

The All Blacks won team of the year and All Black lock Jason Eaton won international newcomer of the year.

Voting in the IRPA awards is carried out by players from the national squads of France, Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

To ensure against bias and prejudice, players are not eligible to vote for a player in their own national squad. They must vote for players from another country.

“It’s special to be acknowledged by your peers, and I’m really grateful for that. The All Blacks have had a good season and my teammates are part of this award too,” McCaw said.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry was delighted with the team award.

“We have a special group of players in the All Blacks right now, and they are all working for each other which gives us a great strength as a team.

“Our management group deserves credit too, along with our administrators and sponsors who are right in behind the All Blacks. We have a great deal of support for what we’re doing.”