Barrett World Rugby Player of the Year as ABs dominate

by AFP

All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett led a hat-trick of titles for world champions New Zealand at the World Rugby awards in London on Sunday as he collected the Player of the Year gong.

The 25-year-old, who has filled the huge vacuum left by the international retirement of Dan Carter with aplomb, was joined on the podium by Steve Hansen, who won Coach of the Year, and the record-breaking All Blacks as Team of the Year. 

Barrett and Hansen, who scooped the coaching award for the fourth time in five season, were central figures as New Zealand set a world record of 18 
successive Test wins before being beaten by Ireland just over a week ago.

"Words can't describe this. I remember sitting on (Dan Carter's) table last year," said Barrett. "I've really enjoyed the challenge and responsibility and 
being given more starts."

"Words can't describe this. I remember sitting on (Dan Carter's) table last year. I've really enjoyed the challenge and responsibility and being given more starts." - Beauden Barrett 

Both Barrett and Hansen also relayed their best wishes to those back home after at least two people were killed following a powerful earthquake on New Zealand's South Island.

"When something like that happens, it put things into perspective and Rugby is just a game. We send them our love and wishes," said Hansen.

There was success for England as captain Sarah Hunter won the Women's Player of the Year gong whilst impressive England lock Maro Itoje - who was also nominated for best player - won Breakthrough Player of the Year for his storming displays in their Six Nations Grand Slam campaign and the historic 3-0 whitewash of Australia.

Barrett is the fifth successive All Black to receive the prestigious award, following in the footsteps of Carter (2012 and 2015), Kieran Read (2013) and Brodie Retallick (2014).

He received the award ahead of five other nominees - which also included All Blacks team-mate Dane Coles, England duo Billy Vunipola and flyhalf Owen 
Farrell and veteran Irish No.8 Jamie Heaslip.

Although Fiji won the men's gold medal at the Rio Olympics the individual award went to South Africa's Seabelo Senatla.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont - who replaced Frenchman Bernard Lapassett after the Frenchman retired from the post this year - said it had been a memorable year for the sport.

"We have witnessed an exceptional 2016 on and off the field featuring a game-changing return to the Olympic Games after 92-years, compelling men's and 
women's World Rugby Sevens Series and of course a captivating year of fifteens Tests and championships," said the former England captain. 

The award winners were selected by independent panels, who voted on every match from the Six Nations through to the start of the November internationals.