Women’s team makes history at World Rugby Awards
For the first time ever, a women’s team has been crowned team of the year at the World Rugby Awards.
The New Zealand men’s side have picked up the award for the past seven years, but it was the All Blacks’ female counterparts, the Black Ferns, who capped off their World Cup-winning year with yet more silverware.
“The team has just been on an absolute high this year,” Portia Woodman, who was also crowned women’s Player of the Year, told CNN at the awards ceremony in Monaco on Sunday.
“More people are recognizing women’s rugby players in New Zealand. You get more people coming up to you, saying ‘Oh, we watched your game. It was an awesome final, congratulations.’ We never had that before.
“The Team and Player of the Year awards just top it off — it’s been the perfect year.”
The Blacks Ferns beat England 41-32 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, earlier this year to lift their fifth World Cup.
Winger Woodman, who top scored with 13 tries in the tournament, splits her time between the 15 and seven-aside versions of the game, where she also helped New Zealand win this season’s Sevens World Series.
New Zealand dominates in Monaco
On a night where rugby stars past and present lined the red carpet in Monaco, the awards continued to pour in for New Zealand.
Fly-half Beauden Barrett became the second player to win back-to-back men’s Player of the Year awards, following in the footsteps of fellow countryman Richie McCaw in 2010.
Barrett recently celebrated his 50th Test against Samoa and had his first opportunity to captain his country against the Barbarians a few weeks later. He notched 168 Test points over the course of the year, 41 of which came as he top scored in the All Blacks’ series draw against the British & Irish Lions.
Alongside brothers Scott and Jordie, Barrett made history in June as the first trio of brothers to play in a Test for the All Blacks.
Having scored in a man-of-the-match display against Wales on Saturday, 19-year-old Rieko Ioane joined Barrett on the stage in Monaco to pick up the Breakthrough Player of the Year award.
“These awards and nominations show that rugby in New Zealand is in good heart,” said the country’s rugby chief Steve Tew.
“At the end of 2017 we hold all five of the rugby World Championships for which we compete. We thank our fans for their continued support and the part they play in ensuring rugby continues to unify and inspire New Zealanders.”
There was one notable Kiwi missing from the awards list, though. Steve Hansen, crowned Coach of the Year four times in the past five years, was beaten to the honor by England boss Eddie Jones.
Jones, whose side beat Samoa 48-14 over the weekend, has seen his England team defeated just once in his two years in charge. He has overseen two victorious Six Nations campaigns and enjoyed a 17-game winning run that was ended by Ireland earlier this year.