Sexton, Ireland take top gongs at World Rugby Awards, as Gardner shines for Aussies

by AFP

Ireland's Johnny Sexton was named world player of the year on Sunday for leading his nation to the Six Nations Grand Slam.

Sexton beat nominees including All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett, who had won the award for the last two years, South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk, New Zealand try machine Rieko Ioane and Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx.

The 33-year-old Leinster fly-half is only the second Irish player to win the award after hooker Keith Wood in 2001.

Ireland were the team of the year and Joe Schmidt's coronation as coach of the year made it an Irish clean sweep at the awards in Monaco.

With Sexton at their heart, Ireland only lost once all year, to Australia in June, and bagged a memorable Grand Slam against England on St Patrick's Day at Twickenham.

Ireland did not lose a game Johnny Sexton played in this year. Photo: AFPThey also beat the All Blacks on Irish soil for the first time with a 16-9 win on November 17.

 New Zealander Schmidt is expected to announce by the end of this month whether he will remain in charge beyond next year's World Cup in Japan.

 But first he will aim to guide the Irish to the last four of the global showpiece for the first time.

While Ireland claimed the three top gongs there were plenty of other awards on offer.

Star All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick was awarded try of the year for his superb show and go effort against the Wallabies in Sydney, while Aphiwe Dyantyi was awarded breakout player of the year.

Australia's only award winner was referee Angus Gardner, crowned referee of the year, while French flyer Jessy Trémoulière was awarded women's XVs player of the year honours.

Michaela Blyde won the women's Sevens player of the year crown, with Perry Baker taking the honours for the men.

Former Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore and New Zealand Sevens legend DJ Forbes also earned special merit awards.

Full list of World Rugby Award Winners

World Rugby Player of the Year: Jonathan Sexton Ireland

World Rugby Team of the Year: Ireland

World Rugby Coach of the Year: Joe Schmidt Ireland

World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year: Aphiwe Dyantyi South Africa

World Rugby Women's Player of the Year: Jessy Tremouliere France

World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year: Perry Baker United States

World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year: Michaela Blyde New Zealand

World Rugby Referee Award: Angus Gardner Australia

IRPA Try of the Year: Brodie Retallick New Zealand

IRPA Special Merit Award: Stephen Moore Australia and DJ Forbes New Zealand

Award for Character: Doddie Weir Scotland Scotland

Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service: Yoshirō Mori Japan Japan