PARIS (AP) — New Zealand No. 8 Ardie Savea was named world men's rugby player of the year on Sunday, a day after his All Blacks lost the Rugby World Cup final.
South Africa won the final but didn't collect any men's awards in a year in which it peaked at the World Cup, where it lost a pool game after finishing second in the Rugby Championship. Lock Eben Etzebeth, flyhalf Manie Libbok and coach Jacques Nienaber were nominated.
Savea, also nominated in 2019, won the player award for the first time ahead of 2021 winner Antoine Dupont of France, Etzebeth, and Bundee Aki of Ireland.
“Very blessed and very grateful,” Savea said at the awards.
“For an individual to stand out, it's based off the foundation that's the team. Massive shout out to Foz (Ian Foster, coach), skip (Sam Cane, captain) and my (All Blacks) brothers ... and the journey that we've been through.”
Savea started in 11 of New Zealand's 12 tests this year, being rested against Uruguay during the World Cup. He led New Zealand in the tournament for offloads and was a stalwart in defense. In the final, he led everyone on the field with 21 carries and took over the captaincy after Cane was red-carded in the second quarter. New Zealand lost 12-11.
Andy Farrell received the best coach award for the first time for keeping Ireland unbeaten all year until the surprising World Cup quarterfinal defeat to New Zealand.
Farrell's Ireland won the Six Nations Grand Slam for only the fourth time and was unbeaten all year until the quarterfinal — a 12-match winning streak including an epic 13-8 pool win over eventual World Cup champion South Africa. The Irish had a 17-win run overall dating to July last year.
Beside Nienaber, the other coach nominees were Foster and Simon Raiwalui, who took over Fiji in February and guided them to their first World Cup quarterfinal in 16 years and historic wins over England and Australia.
The sevens players of the year were Tyla Nathan-Wong from series champion New Zealand and Rodrigo Isgo from series runner-up Argentina.
The major women's awards were to be given out after the WXV ends.
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