France captain Thierry Dusautoir has edged out some stiff competition to win the IRB Player of the Year Award.
Many thought that the winner of this prestigious accolade would come from the world champions. The All Blacks won the World Cup final on Sunday and while both Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu were nominated in the top player category, Kaino was believed to be the strongest candidate for the award.
At the annual prizegiving on Monday, however, Dusautoir was honoured for his efforts in 2011. The powerful French flanker enjoyed two particularly good games in the semi-final and final. He was named Man of the Match in the decider even though the All Blacks won 8-7.
The All Blacks walked away with the Team of the Year accolade, while Graham Henry scooped the Coach of the Year gong.
The only South African to win an award was sevens star Cecil Afrika.
The founders of the Rugby World Cup and all previous winning captains and coaches were inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame. In addition Gareth Rees (Canada), Jonah Lomu (New Zealand), Agustin Pichot (Argentina) and Brian Lima (Samoa) were also inducted in the Hall of Fame.
The 2011 winners:
Player of the Year – Thierry Dusautoir (France)
Team of the Year – New Zealand
Coach of the Year – Graham Henry (New Zealand)
Junior Player of the Year – George Ford (England)
IRB Sevens Player of the Year – Cecil Afrika (South Africa)
IRPA Try of the Year – Radike Samo (Australia), Wallabies vs All Blacks, Brisbane
The Spirit of Rugby Award – Wooden Spoon Society for their work with disadvantaged youth
IRB Women’s Personality of the Year – Ruth Mitchell
IRPA Special Merit Award – (chosen by fellow players for outstanding contribution) George Smith
IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service – Keith Lawrence
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – Jock Hobbs
IRB Development Award – USA Rugby for their Rookie Rugby Programme