Oval Talk

Rugby awards for 2011

Oval Talk

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The serious awards…

Team of the year - New Zealand

If anyone argues with this, they can take a running jump off a cliff convenient to them. On home soil they delivered and won the trophy which has eluded them for 24 years. The All Blacks have been considered the best team in the world for the best part of a decade and now, finally, it's official.

Player of the year, Northern Hemisphere — Sean O'Brien

There was a lot of umming and ahhing about this, but it got whittled down to O'Brien and Thierry Dusautoir and, quite frankly, over the whole year it must be the Irishman. He was key for both his club, Leinster, and country and was voted the European Cup player of the year. Nobody is stronger or more aggressive than O'Brien on the rugby field.

Player of the year, Southern Hemisphere — Kurtly Beale

If only Kurtly was fit for the whole World Cup, if could have been a different story for Australia. Beale's lightning pace and ability to evade tackle after tackle makes him the most effective attacking force in world rugby. He's not a bad stand-in kicker either.

Coach of the year — Graham Henry

Along with his two assistants, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, Graham Henry did an exceptional job in handling the pressure of leading New Zealand to World Cup glory. The trio made up for the disappointment of 2007 as they have created one of the most formidable squads of all time; not just in skill but discipline, consistency and teamwork.

Match of the year — Northampton v Leinster

It would be all too easy to say the World Cup final what with all of the drama and tension, but it has to be the Heineken Cup Final. Northampton dominated for 40 minutes, but Leinster hit back and did just the same in the second half. It was an enthralling match which was so exceptional; we are unlikely to see another like it for a generation.

Villain of the year - Alain Rolland

This has to go to Alain Rolland for sending off Wales captain Sam Warburton in the World Cup semi-final against France. Rightly, it has since been recognised, Rolland made the right decision to dismiss Warburton for his tip tackle on Vincent Clerc. But it was extremely unpopular with many left thinking what could have been for Wales. OT doubts Rolland would have been on many people's Christmas card lists this year.

Rookie of the year — Rhys Priestland

Before the World Cup, Rhys Priestland was Wales' third choice fly-half but the fact he is now the starter speaks volumes about how much the Scarlets star has come on this year. He took his chance after Stephen Jones picked up an injury in the warm-up matches and James Hook's form slipped. He will be wearing that number 10 shirt for years to come.

Some alternative awards….

The Luis Suarez 'Did he really just say that?' award — Marc Lievremont

The France coach tried to wage war with the media, judging by some of the comments he made. It was great to see France reach the final just to get to hear Lievremont spout off as many times as possible before he called it a day.

The David Brent 'school of management' award — The RFU

Quite simply the most shambolic governing body in world rugby. If they had not noticed, we are in the 21st century and rugby union has been professional for many years now.

The Top tweeter award - Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu

After Samoa's 17-10 defeat to Wales in the World Cup, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu went on a rant through the medium of Twitter to vent his frustration. The Gloucester player has a track record of doing this, but the one tweet which will stay long in the memory is this: "Ok, it's obvious the IRB are unjust. Wales get seven days, we get three. Unfair treatment, like slavery, like the holocaust, like apartheid. **** U". Poet Laureate in waiting.

The waste of talent award — Danny Cipriani

Since moving to the Melbourne Rebels, Danny has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons; missing his curfew on more than one occasion, getting papped in numerous nightclubs and even stealing a bottle of alcohol from one of them. He should be vying for England's number 10 shirt made vacant by Jonny Wilkinson; but alas, he is nowhere.

The Beard of the Year — Adam Kleeberger

What a beard; what a man. The Canadian's facial hair put everyone else to shame at the World Cup. Sadly the beard is no longer with us as it was shaved off for charity, but we will always have the memories.

The least favourite tourists award — the England team

Wow, looking back England were spectacularly embarrassing in New Zealand. Mike Tindall was caught getting friendly with an 'old friend' just weeks after marrying Zara Phillips; he certainly hasn't won any Son-in-law of the year award with Princess Anne. Then of course there was Manu Tuilagi jumping of a ferry - as you do - and the alleged sexual harassment. All in all, it was a bad trip for the Red Roses.

The cashing in and selling out award — Jaque Fourie

Reported to have signed the most lucrative contract in rugby history, it is understandable why Jaque Fourie swapped the Stormers for Japan's Kobe Steel. The $2.75million deal looks like it has also ended Fourie's international career, for the time being at least.

The downright ignorant award — Ian Smith

The New Zealand commentator Smith wins this accolade for confusing France captain Thierry Dusautoir with footballer Thierry Henry in a post-match interview. Never take those 'There's only one Thierry' chants seriously.

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