France captain Thierry Dusautoir has been named the IRB Player of the Year at the 2011 IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline, during a star-studded ceremony at Vector Arena in Auckland on Monday.
Dusautoir is the second Frenchman to win the Award, following in the footsteps of former national team captain, Fabien Galthi�, who claimed the accolade in 2002.
New Zealand were named IRB Team of the Year and Graham Henry IRB Coach of the Year, to add to the Rugby World Cup crown they claimed at Eden Park with a hard-fought 8-7 victory over the French on 23 October.
Dusautoir was outstanding all season for France, including in the World Cup and particularly the final where his defensive effort and ball-carrying inspired the French against the hosts. He was picked ahead of five other nominees – New Zealand scrum half Piri Weepu, flanker Jerome Kaino and centre Ma’a Nonu and Australia flanker David Pocock and scrum half Will Genia.
The winners were selected by the Awards’ independent panel of judges, chaired by Rugby World Cup-winner John Eales and made up of former internationals with more than 500 caps between them. The panel deliberated on every major Test match played this year, starting with the first Six Nations match and finishing with the Rugby World Cup 2011 Final.
The glittering event, which also celebrated 125 years of the International Rugby Board, was a fitting finale to what IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset described as an “exceptional” Rugby World Cup and was attended by all four semi-final teams, royalty and stars from sport and entertainment.
Earlier in the day, an estimated 240,000 fans turned up to catch a glimpse of the All Blacks who were last to arrive at the Vector Arena with the Webb Ellis Cup.
IRB Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC
Cecil Afrika, South Africa
Cecil Afrika was the outstanding player from the 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series and finished as the top try and point scorer. South Africa’s inspirational playmaker and sweeper, Afrika scored 40 tries and 385 points across seven events, returning from injury in double quick time to inspire the Blitzbokke to Cup success in Las Vegas, and was also key in their victories in London and Scotland.
IRB Development Award
USA Rugby’s Rookie Rugby programme
Rookie Rugby was designed by USA Rugby, the sport’s governing body in the US, to give young players between six and 12 years old a fun, safe and enjoyable sporting experience. It introduced a whole new raft of fans and athletes to the sport through programmes administered through schools, community-based and state-based rugby organizations and USA Rugby national events. The initial aim was to introduce 100,000 new children to rugby but the reality has far outstripped that and continues to gather momentum.
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service
IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service
Keith Lawrence refereed 14 international matches between 1985 and 1991 and went on to become an outstanding rugby administrator in the match official sphere. Lawrence worked as a Referee Manager both within his native New Zealand and for the International Rugby Board as Sevens Referee Manager, a role from which he retired earlier this year.
IRPA Try of the Year
Radike Samo, Australia v New Zealand
The final Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup match of 2011 between New Zealand and Australia in Brisbane was a breathless encounter won by the Wallabies, inspired on the day by Radike Samo. The Fijian-born 35-year-old forward received the ball on his own 10-metre line and shrugged off a couple of All Black defenders before outsprinting the cover defence to score a remarkable individual try.
IRPA Special Merit Award
Former captain George Smith is one of the greatest flankers ever to play for Australia and a veteran of 110 Tests for his country. Smith made his international debut against France in 2000 and played his final Test for the Wallabies against Wales nine years later. The 31-year-old has played for the Barbarians four times since, including earlier this year against England and Wales.