Rugby

Two Boks in players' World XV

2013-12-06 13:41
Eben Etzebeth and Bismarck du Plessis (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Two Springboks, lock Eben Etzebeth and hooker Bismarck du Plessis, have made it into the International Rugby Players Association's (IRPA) World XV of the Year.

The “IRPAS” - the first rugby awards judged by the players for the players - saw Australian AFL-convert Israel Folau win the “International Newcomer of the Year” award, and the players’ “Team of the Year” title bestowed on New Zealand, while All Black Kieran Read was named players’ Player of the Year.

Read was earlier also named IRB Player of the Year as well as New Zealand Player of the Year

The players’ World XV of the Year further comprises seven New Zealanders, four Welshmen and one player each from France and England.

There was stiff competition for places at loose-forward, where All Black Liam Messam only just pipped Argentine Juan Fernandez Lobbe for the No 6 berth, and in the halfback pairings, where New Zealanders Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden received marginally more votes than Samoan No 9 Kahn Fotuali’i and Irish stand-off Johnny Sexton.

However, the biggest bone of contention in the World XV was in the midfield with voting spread across four players - New Zealanders Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith; South African Jean de Villiers and French inside centre Wesley Fofana.

The final count favoured Fofana and Smith.
 
Warren Gatland, coach of Wales and the British and Ireland Lions, was pleased to see four players from his Six Nations champions make the cut, and especially outstanding fullback Leigh Halfpenny.

“I’m chuffed for all of them, naturally - it’s been a very good year for the British and Irish Lions, and for Wales,” he said via a press statement.

“But I’m particularly pleased for Leigh (Halfpenny). He was a stand-out performer during the Lions’ win in Australia earlier in the year and was also at his very best throughout our Six Nations campaign.”

Folau, who is the first athlete in history to play Rugby League, Australian Rule Football and Rugby Union at the highest level, took the international scene by storm in 2013, scoring 10 tries for the Wallabies - in the process equalling the record for a year set by Lote Tuqiri in 2004.

“I’ve really enjoyed my first year in rugby, but there is a lot I can improve on which I am now focussing on,” said Folau. “ Receiving this award is humbling because it’s been voted by my peers. I couldn’t have enjoyed the year I’ve had without the support of my team mates, coaches and officials, so this is as much for them as it is for me.”

Meanwhile, rugby supporters still have time to vote for the IRPA Fans’ Player and World XV of the Year Awards; the winners of which will be announced next week.
 
All fans need to do is to go to www.ultimaterugby.com, download the mobile app and follow the voting instructions contained within.

IRPA Awards:

Players’ World XV of the Year:

15 Leigh Halfpenny (WAL), 14 Ben Smith (NZ), 13 Conrad Smith (NZ), 12 Wesley Fofana (FRA), 11 George North (WAL), 10 Aaron Cruden (NZ), 9 Aaron Smith (NZ), 8 Kieran Read (NZ), 7 Sam Warburton (WAL), 6 Liam Messam (NZ), 5 Sam Whitelock (NZ), 4 Eben Etzebeth (SA), 3 Adam Jones (WAL), 2 Bismarck du Plessis (SA), 1 Alex Corbisiero (ENG)

Players’ Player of the Year: Kieran Read

Players’ International Newcomer of the Year: Israel Folau (AUS)

Players’ Team of the Year: New Zealand

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