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Ireland's Josh van der Flier named World Rugby men's player of the year

Johnny Sexton, van der Flier, Tadhg Furlong, and Tadhg Beirne made the men’s dream team.

Josh van der Flier has had a stunning year.
Josh van der Flier has had a stunning year.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND AND LEINSTER back row Josh van der Flier has been named World Rugby men’s player of the year.

29-year-old van der Flier becomes just the third Irishman to win the award, following in the footsteps of Keith Wood [2001] and Johnny Sexton [2018].

Sexton was among the nominees again this year, as were France scrum-half Antoine Dupont and South Africa centre Lukhanyo Am, but van der Flier collected the top prize at World Rugby’s awards ceremony in Monaco.

The Wicklow man has been sensational throughout a brilliant 2022 for Ireland, starting all five games in the Six Nations as they claimed a Triple Crown, all three Tests in their summer series success in New Zealand, as well as the two recent autumn wins over South Africa and Australia.

Van der Flier has been ultra-consistent as he has taken his game to a new level, improving every single aspect of his skill set and making a dominant impact against the best teams. The 45-times capped flanker has been superb for Leinster too.

He had already won the European player of the year, Leinster players player of the year, Rugby Players of Ireland player of the year, and Rugby Writers of Ireland player of the year awards in 2022.

While Sexton wasn’t picked for men’s player of the year, the 37-year-old was included in the World Rugby men’s 15s dream team along with van der Flier, Tadhg Furlong, and Tadhg Beirne.

Van der Flier wasn’t the only Irish winner of an individual award in Monaco as Terry Kennedy was announced as the men’s 7s player of the year.

Ireland boss Andy Farrell missed out as coach of the year, while Dan Sheehan and Mack Hansen were pipped in the men’s breakthrough player of the category.

Ruahei Demant won the women’s 15s player of the year award after her superb performances at out-half as New Zealand won the World Cup.

terry-kennedy Terry Kennedy was named men's 7s player of the year. Source: Martin Seras Lima/INPHO

Ireland’s Kennedy was the unsurprising choice as World Rugby men’s 7s player of the year. The 26-year-old was the top try-scorer in the World Series last season with a remarkable 50 tries and played a key role as Ireland finished third at the World Cup.

Kennedy is on a sabbatical in Australia for the current season but flew into Monaco to accept his well-earned award. 

The former Ireland U20 international spent two years with the Leinster academy as a 15s player but was involved in the men’s 7s programme from early on and moved full-time into the seven-player code after finishing up with his native province.

Kennedy, a St Mary’s College RFC club man, has now earned the top individual prize in the sevens game thanks to his brilliant performances and he is due to return to the Ireland 7s duty next season as they look towards the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

New Zealand’s Wayne Smith was named coach of the year after leading his country to their remarkable women’s World Cup success.

Ireland head coach Farrell was also among the nominees after helping Ireland to a Triple Crown, series success in New Zealand, and a clean sweep of their autumn Tests but he missed out as the vastly experienced Kiwi was honoured.

Smith took over the Black Ferns in April of this year with the set-up in disarray but turned the ship around in stunning fashion to drive them into the World Cup final in New Zealand, where they beat heavy tournament favourites England. 

ange-capuozzo Ange Capuozzo won men's breakthrough player of the year. Source: Andy Watts/INPHO

Italy’s Ange Capuozzo was named men’s breakthrough player of the year. The 23-year-old has been a sensation for the Azzurri since his debut during this year’s Six Nations, with his brilliance in the back three helping the Italians to wins over Wales and Australia in 2022.

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The Toulouse fullback beat off the strong competition of Ireland hooker Sheehan and wing Hansen, who were nominated along with England’s Henry Arundell. Sheehan had a particularly convincing claim having become one of the best hookers in the world this year, but Capuozzo pipped him to the prize.

New Zealand’s Ruby Tui won women’s breakthrough player of the year after starring in the Kiwis’ remarkable World Cup success on home soil.

Australia’s Charlotte Caslick was named women’s 7s player of the year after played a key role in their World Series and World Cup successes.

The women’s try of the year prize went to England’s Abby Dow for her effort against Canada during the recent World Cup, while Chile’s Rodrigo Fernandez won the men’s try of the year honor for his stunning score against the US in World Cup qualifying.

The URC’s head of match officials, Tappe Henning, received the World Rugby referee of the year award.

Former Springboks wing Bryan Habana was honoured with the International Rugby Players special merit award, while the Vernon Pugh award for distinguished service went to former New Zealand captain Farah Palmer. 

World Rugby men’s 15s dream team: Freddie Steward; Will Jordan, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Marika Koroibete; Johnny Sexton, Antoine Dupont; Ellis Genge, Malcolm Marx, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, Sam Whitelock; Pablo Matera, Josh van der Flier, Gregory Alldritt.

World Rugby women’s 15s dream team: Abby Dow; Portia Woodman, Emily Scarrett, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Ruby Tui; Ruahei Demant, Laure Sansus; Hope Rogers, Emily Tuttosi, Sarah Bern; Abbie Ward, Madoussou Fall; Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Sophie de Goede.

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