World Rugby has announced the shortlists for the prestigious Men’s and Women’s 15s Players of the Year awards for 2017, which will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo on 26 November.
Following a stellar year for international rugby, the shortlists for the ultimate accolade feature players who have excited and inspired fans around the world with their feats in 2017.
The nominees for World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard are: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand), Owen Farrell (England and British and Irish Lions), Israel Folau (Australia), Rieko Ioane (New Zealand) and Maro Itoje (England and Lions).
The nominees for World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard are: Kelly Brazier (New Zealand), Romane Menager (France), Safi N’Diaye (France), Lydia Thompson (England) and Portia Woodman (New Zealand).
Both shortlists were selected by the new star-studded World Rugby Awards panel which comprises Rugby World Cup winners Richie McCaw, John Smit, George Gregan, Maggie Alphonsi and former England coach Clive Woodward alongside Brian O’Driscoll, Fabien Galthié and Agustín Pichot.
In a new step in the selection process, fans, international captains, coaches and media will have their say before the panel considers the winners of the prestigious awards. Fans can find out how to cast their vote here.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “There have been numerous highlights from a fascinating year of international rugby that comprised an outstanding Women’s Rugby World Cup, a compelling British and Irish Lions tour, Six Nations and The Rugby Championship competitions and a superb programme of test rugby.
“As ever, the selection of Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year nominees by the panel has excellence as the core consideration and all are not just superb players, but role models.
“I am sure there will be lots of debate over the coming weeks. I’d like to thank the panel for their expert consideration and look forward to the winners being announced at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco.”
WORLD RUGBY MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
BEAUDEN BARRETT (NEW ZEALAND) The 26-year-old could become only the second player to win the prestigious accolade two years in a row after another impressive season in the All Blacks No.10 jersey. He celebrated his 50th test against Samoa with a two-try, 24-point haul and a piece of All Blacks history alongside his brothers, and finished the Lions series as top point scorer with 41. The attack-minded fly-half, who is equally at home at full-back, continued to torment defences with his instinctive play and captained the All Blacks for the first time in the non-capped victory over the Barbarians earlier this month.
OWEN FARRELL (ENGLAND AND LIONS) Another player nominated for the second year running and third time in total, Farrell continued to pull the strings for England and the Lions at inside centre in 2017. He started all five tests in England’s victorious Six Nations campaign, reaching 50 caps for his country against Italy in February and breaking through 600 test points in the final round loss to Ireland. The 26-year-old also started the three tests on the Lions tour of New Zealand, the first of them at fly-half, and contributed 31 points in the drawn series.
ISRAEL FOLAU (AUSTRALIA) The oldest of the nominees at 28, Folau has been back to his scintillating best in 2017. The full-back came into the year without a try in his previous 11 tests, but rediscovered his scoring touch to set a new Australian record for tries in a calendar year with 12 in his 10 tests, failing to cross the line in only two matches. The first Wallaby to score doubles in three consecutive tests back in June, he was joint top try-scorer in the Rugby Championship and will be missed on their end of year tour after electing to take a break after a long season.
RIEKO IOANE (NEW ZEALAND) Ioane, the youngest of the nominees at only 20, is also nominated for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award having made the All Blacks starting left-wing spot his own following a two-try haul in his first test start against the British and Irish Lions in June. He then shared the top try-scoring honour in the Rugby Championship after topping the charts for defenders beaten, clean breaks and metres made, and arrives in Europe with a record of eight tries in as nine starts this year.
MARO ITOJE (ENGLAND AND LIONS) The Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2016, Itoje is nominated for this prestigious award for the second year running after continuing his impressive form in 2017. Deployed at blindside flanker, rather than second-row, throughout England’s victorious Six Nations campaign, his performances ensured his place on the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. He came off the bench in the first test and earned a starting spot in the second-row for the remaining tests.