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Sexton named player of the year as Ireland dominate awards

Johnny Sexton was named the World Rugby Player of the Year as Ireland capped a fine year by dominating Sunday’s awards ceremony.

Sexton, 33, became the first Irishman to win the honour since hooker Keith Wood back in 2001.

Ireland won 11 of their 12 Tests this year, including securing the Grand Slam at the Six Nations, and were named the team of 2018.

Unsurprisingly, Joe Schmidt picked up the coach of the year award.

Fly-half Sexton also won two major competitions with Leinster – the Pro14 and European Rugby Champions Cup – to cap a phenomenal year.

It is the first time since 2011 a New Zealand player has not won the prize, with Sexton beating All Blacks duo Beauden Barrett – who was aiming for a third straight crown – and Rieko Ioane and South Africa pair Faf De Klerk and Malcolm Marx.

Ireland captain Rory Best read a speech on behalf of Sexton, who unable to speak after contracting a throat infection and losing his voice.

He said: “Thank you to my team-mates and coaches. If a number 10 wins an award like this, it is due to the team around him and his coaches making his job easier.

“We have some of the best coaches in the world and are led superbly by me [Best] and Pete [O’Mahony, Ireland vice-captain].

“I’d also like to thank my wife Laura, who has been with me since the start. We have three young kids and she does absolutely everything to allow me to concentrate on the day. I wouldn’t have been able to have the season I had without her.

“Thank you so much, it is an incredible honour. I look at the other nominees and admire all of them. Any of them would’ve been a worthy winner.”

KEO.co.za News wire is powered by opta

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