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6 Nations

World Player of the Year nominees revealed

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The rugby family can now cast their vote for six of the prestigious World Rugby Awards 2021 categories after the nominations selected by the star-studded panel were revealed on Monday.

Fans will be able to select their winners for the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Players of the Year in sevens and 15s, as well as the International Rugby Players Men’s and Women’s Try of the Year scorers on the Awards’ voting website and join the conversation using #WorldRugbyAwards.

Voting will be open from 10:00 GMT on Monday, 15 November until 23:59 GMT on Sunday, 21 November.

CAST YOUR VOTES NOW >>

The remaining six categories will be voted by the World Rugby Awards panel, a stellar team of rugby legends who will have the hard task of selecting winners for the World Rugby Breakthrough, Coach and Referee awards as well as the newly created Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of 2021.

To maintain the integrity of the outcome, the panel will have the opportunity to review the public voting to ensure the recipients are fitting winners in their respective category.

VIEW THE FULL WORLD RUGBY AWARDS PANEL >>

Nine countries are represented among the nominees in Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales, with France having the most representatives with eight, two more than England and New Zealand. Fiji are also rewarded for their teams’ performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with four nominees in the Men’s and Women’s Sevens Player of the Year categories.

WORLD RUGBY AWARDS 2021 NOMINEES

World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard (fan vote)

Antoine Dupont (France)
Michael Hooper (Australia)
Maro Itoje (England/British and Irish Lions)
Samu Kerevi (Australia)

Australia captain Michael Hooper – who became his country’s most-capped captain in September – and England’s Maro Itoje have both previously been nominated for the Award, but lively scrum-half Antoine Dupont becomes the first Frenchman to be nominated since 2012 while Samu Kerevi is rewarded for his impactful return to the Wallabies midfield in 2021 which saw them win five tests, their best run outside of a Rugby World Cup year since 2008.

World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard (fan vote)

Zoe Aldcroft (England)
Caroline Boujard (France)
Poppy Cleall (England)
Laure Sansus (France)

Four first-time nominees in this category representing the two teams that have led the way in women’s rugby in 2021. Poppy Cleall and Zoe Aldcroft are two powerhouses of the England pack, both comfortable in either the second row and back row, while Caroline Boujard scored what is believed to be the joint-fastest hat-trick in Women’s Six Nations history against Wales in April. Laure Sansus’ selection, meanwhile, make it three years in a row that a French scrum-half has been nominated for the prestigious award.

World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in association with Tudor (panel vote)

Will Jordan (New Zealand)
Andrew Kellaway (Australia)
Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
Marcus Smith (England)

Three flying wingers and an exciting talent at fly-half who have all lit up the international stage over the last year. Will Jordan is the second-fastest All Black to 15 test tries and has only failed to score in two of his 12 tests, while Andrew Kellaway is closing in on the Australian record for most tries in a debut season with eight in 12 tests in 2021. Louis Rees-Zammit became the youngest British and Irish Lion player for more than 50 years after impressing for Wales, while Marcus Smith has looked like a veteran in the England No.10 jersey since his debut in July.

World Rugby Coach of the Year (panel vote)

Allan Bunting/Cory Sweeney (New Zealand Women’s Sevens)
Ian Foster (New Zealand Men)
Simon Middleton (England Women)
Dave Rennie (Australia Men)

All first-time nominees split across sevens and 15s, Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney led New Zealand to Olympic gold in Tokyo, the one remaining accolade they were missing, while Simon Middleton led England to another Women’s Six Nations title and back-to-back record victories over world champions New Zealand in 2021. Ian Foster coached New Zealand to Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup success in a record-breaking year, while Dave Rennie has injected youth and experience into a Wallabies side that won five matches in a row, two of them against world champions South Africa.

World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC (fan vote)

Napolioni Bolaca (Fiji)
Scott Curry (New Zealand)
Marcos Moneta (Argentina)
Jiuta Wainiqolo (Fiji)

The nominees blend the guile and experience of New Zealand’s co-captain and talisman Scott Curry to the fresh exuberance of youth of Argentina’s Marcos Moneta, the top try-scorer with six in Tokyo. Fiji continue their proud record of having at least one player among the nominees from 2013 onwards with two gold medallists in Napolioni Bolaca and Jiuta Wainiqolo, the latter marking his Fiji debut in a global sevens tournament with the opening try of Tokyo 2020 to quickly announce himself to the world.

World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC (fan vote)

Anne-Cécile Ciofani (France)
Sarah Hirini (New Zealand)
Alowesi Nakoci (Fiji)
Reapi Ulunisau (Fiji)

New Zealand’s inspirational captain Sarah Hirini led the Black Ferns Sevens to the Olympic gold that had driven them on for the last five years, while Anne-Cécile Ciofani was a standout for France on the way to silver. Two players who helped inspire Fiji become their nation’s first female Olympic medallists are also nominated in Alowesi Nakoci and Reapi Ulunisau, the latter belying the fact it was her debut in a global tournament by finishing as top try-scorer with eight, including a record four against Brazil in the pool stage.

International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year (fan vote)

Lukhanyo Am (South Africa A, v British and Irish Lions on 14 July)  
Pierre-Louis Barassi (France, v Australia on 17 July)
Luke Jacobson (New Zealand, v Argentina on 12 September)
Damian Penaud (France, v Scotland on 26 March)

Three tries that began deep in their own 22 from a free-kick or scrum and were quickly turned into tries after free-flowing attacks and the fourth a run back from a clearing kick to halfway. Damian Penaud’s try against Scotland in the Six Nations saw the winger gather his own chip dot down, while France team-mate Pierre-Louis Barassi finished off a move that had begun five metres from their own line against Australia in July. Cheslin Kolbe’s dancing feet and offload released Lukhanyo Am to score for South Africa A against the British and Irish Lions, while an outrageous offload from Beauden Barrett was gratefully received by Luke Jacobson to finish another flowing move from the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship against Argentina.

International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year (fan vote)

Sara Barattin (Italy, v Scotland on 13 September)
Emilie Boulard (France, v Wales on 3 April)
Abby Dow (England, v France on 30 April)
Romane Ménager (France, v Ireland on 17 April)

Two French tries in the Women’s Six Nations, one to round out an impressive debut from Emilie Boulard late on against Wales when she finished off a slick passing move in the corner and the other another run-in from back-row Romane Ménager against Ireland. England swung the ball wide quickly from a lineout to find Abby Dow, the winger running around the outside of the defender to race in against hosts France a week after their Six Nations final triumph. The final nominee comes from the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier, hosts Italy stealing an overthrown Scottish lineout near halfway to quickly send Sara Barattin over near the posts. 

After a special edition in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prestigious World Rugby Awards return in 2021 to celebrate on-field achievements of the calendar year and recognise the teams and individuals who have inspired players and fans around the world. The pandemic has continued to impact the international stage with a number of teams having only returned to test rugby in the last couple of months.

Placed at the end of the November international window, the biggest accolades in rugby union will be virtually handed to their recipients from 6-10 December. The 12 categories will be unveiled on World Rugby social media channels including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (@WorldRugby).

The other categories to be awarded next month are the World Rugby Referee Award, the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service and the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of the Year in association with Capgemini.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Awards are the ultimate accolade for rugby, and we are delighted to honour the outstanding players and individuals who have made an impact on our game on and off the field in 2021.

“The pandemic and its consequences have restricted several unions from playing international games this year and we recognise that not all rugby stars have had a chance to shine. Nevertheless, the World Rugby Awards Panel has done an amazing job in selecting suitable candidates in each category and I would like to congratulate all nominees who, deservingly, have been shortlisted for this year’s awards.”

6 Nations

IRFU Updates Transgender Policy

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The IRFU will amend its gender participation policy for rugby from the forthcoming season, based on medical and scientific evidence and in line with World Rugby guidance.

The IRFU is keenly aware that this is a sensitive and challenging area for those involved and the wider LGBT+ community and will continue to work with those impacted, providing support to ensure their ongoing involvement with the game.

Recent peer reviewed research provides evidence that there are physical differences between those people whose sex was assigned as male and those as female at birth, and advantages in strength, stamina and physique brought about by male puberty are significant and retained even after testosterone suppression.

In Line With World Rugby Guidance

The new policy, which is in line with that of World Rugby, the RFU and other governing bodies, will mean that contact rugby for players in the female category is limited to those whose sex was recorded as female at birth.

There are two registered players affected, in Ireland, by this change and the IRFU has discussed the matter directly with them including options to remain active in the game, such as non-contact playing formats (tag/touch rugby), refereeing, coaching, and volunteering, underlining that the IRFU values their on-going involvement in the game.

In the male category, players whose sex is recorded at birth as female may continue to play if they provide written consent and a risk assessment is carried out. The IRFU has spoken to players we are permitted to contact directly and will work with them to support on-going participation in the sport.

Anne Marie Hughes, Spirit of Rugby Manager, who has worked on policy development in this area since 2014, said,

“The IRFU is committed to inclusivity and has worked with the players and other groups in the LGBT+ community to explain that this change is based solely on new research related to safety. This is a particularly sensitive area, and it is important that respect is shown to all members of our rugby family and the wider community.

“We will continue to work to be as inclusive as we can be and to explore areas such as tag and touch rugby, which we know some of our players are already considering, refereeing, volunteering, and coaching.

“We continue to stand with the LGBT+ community, and while we accept that today some may feel disappointed in this decision, we want to again underline to them – there is a place for everyone in rugby, and we can all work together.”

The IRFU is committed to engaging with World Rugby, and other organisations, to further explore options to allow wider participation in contact rugby. We are also committed to the ongoing review of the policy as new evidence, research and insights become available.

IRFU Gender Participation Policy

The policy and an FAQ document are also available here

World Rugby Transgender Guidelines – https://www.world.rugby/the-game/player-welfare/guidelines/transgender

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

Pro Contracts & Head Of Women’s Performance & Pathways announced

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43 IRFU Centralised Contracts To Be Offered To Elite Women’s Players

The IRFU is pleased to announce that Gillian McDarby has been appointed as Head of Women’s Performance and Pathways following an extensive recruitment process directed by the IRFU National Professional Game Board.

Gillian will be responsible for the development, delivery, and implementation of the approved strategic and operational direction of the women’s rugby performance programme for both XVs and Sevens. She will be responsible for developing a cohesive player pathway that connects and feeds the needs of both national programmes.

She will work with the Domestic Rugby department to grow the playing base of young women and girls, thereby facilitating consistent performance of Irish teams at an elite level into the future.

Gillian McDarby’s extensive career, across business and sport, provides her with strong high performance structural development credentials, which will prove critical in the development of the next phase of growth and elite performance for Irish women’s rugby.

Through her career with the IRFU she already has a deep understanding of the issues and opportunities facing the women’s game in Ireland.

A synopsis of her involvement across sport includes:

2002 – 2007 Member of Cycling Ireland’s elite senior squad.
2011-2013 Women’s National Development Coach & National Team Manager, Cycling Ireland
2014-2016 Women’s Rugby National Teams Program Manager, IRFU
2017-2021 Member of Board of Directors, Cycling Ireland
2019-2020 Business Intelligence Analyst (Performance Department) & Project Management, IRFU
2020 – High Performance Centre, Facilities & Operations Manager, IRFU

43 Contracts To Be Offered

In addition, the IRFU has confirmed that it will be providing a total of 43 centralised, paid contracts to elite women’s players next season, this includes contracts already in operation for members of the women’s 7’s programme.

To respect the importance of the upcoming test windows in Japan and the Sevens World Cup, the IRFU will discuss the details of the contracts with players before making further public pronouncements on these exciting developments.

The contracts have been benchmarked internationally and will range up to €30,000 + match fees and bonuses.

Speaking of her appointment Gillian McDarby said, “It is a great privilege to be appointed as the IRFU’s first Head of Women’s Performance and Pathways. I have worked across several important areas in the game and believe there is a huge growth opportunity for the women’s game in Ireland and I am looking forward to working with all stakeholders to bring the women’s game to the next level.

“It is also pleasing that my appointment coincides with the formal announcement of contracts for up to 43 female players. This is a major step forward for women’s rugby in Ireland.

“Success in the women’s game will be based on sustainability: creating sustainable pathways within the competition structures, getting meaningful competition structures in place for both women and girls to access the game of rugby at the right entry points and continuing to develop competitive international teams in fifteens and sevens. That, to me, is success.”

“This is an exciting time for the game and while much work has been done, there is always more to do. There are no overnight successes in sport, but I know that by working collectively with clubs, players, coaches, staff, and volunteers we can build an ever-evolving environment where young women and girls are supported to be the best they can be.”

Kevin Potts, Chief Executive, IRFU in welcoming the appointment said, “I would like to congratulate Gillian on her appointment and thank the interview panel of Nancy Chillingworth, High Performance Manager with the Olympic Federation of Ireland, Gary Keegan CEO of Uppercut, the high-performance advisory consultancy firm that works with organisations and leaders across sport, both of whom are independent members of the IRFU’s National Professional Game Board (NPGB) and David Nucifora, the IRFU High Performance Director. The high-performance expertise and independence brought to this appointment was very important to the NPGB.

“We wish Gillian well in this vitally important role and will ensure that she has the full support of the NPGB and the IRFU to successfully bring women’s rugby in Ireland to the next level.

“Today’s announcement of the creation of up to 43 IRFU contracts for Women’s Players is a further strong signal of our intent to foster and grow the women’s game over the coming years and to ensure that our women’s players are provided with the best opportunities to compete at the highest levels of the game in the future.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

Andy Farrell Extends Contract To 2025

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The IRFU will advise delegates at its Annual Council Meeting later today (Friday 29th July) that Ireland Men’s Head Coach, Andy Farrell, has signed a two-year contract extension that will see him remain in his position until at least August 2025.

In his address to Council Kevin Potts, Chief Executive, IRFU, will congratulate and thank Andy, his coaching team, support staff and players for their historic win in New Zealand, while also confirming the contract extension.

Ahead of the Council meeting, IRFU Chief Executive Potts said: “I am delighted to confirm that Andy Farrell has accepted a two-year contract extension as the head coach of our men’s international team which will keep him at the helm of that team until at least August 2025, and there is an option to extend the contract further, based on a number of mutually agreed performance markers.

“Andy is one of the finest coaches in the world, he has brought our game to new heights and has the team playing a brand of rugby that excites, entertains, and engages people, while, critically, producing winning results.

“I would like to thank our Performance Director, David Nucifora, for his work in negotiating this extension with Andy.

“I, on behalf of all the Union delegates and Irish Rugby fans across the world, thank Andy for the exceptional impact he has had on Ireland’s performances to date, as we look forward to the year ahead, which will of course include the Rugby World Cup in France.”

Commenting on the new deal, Farrell said: “I am happy to extend my contract with Irish Rugby for a further two years. As a group we have made it clear that we are building towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and we have taken some decent strides in that regard in recent months.

“Ahead of the tour to New Zealand myself and David (Nucifora) looked at the opportunities and challenges facing the national squad after the tournament in France. I am excited about continuing to work with the group and with the next generation of Irish international players.”

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, added: “Andy is one of the outstanding coaches in world rugby and his work in leading the transition within the national team since the 2019 Rugby World Cup has been exceptional. Ireland are currently the number one ranked team in the world, an incredibly tough five match tour of New Zealand was a success on several levels and a Triple Crown was secured in the 2022 Six Nations Championship.

“A coach of Andy’s calibre is always going to be in high demand, and we are delighted that he has agreed to extend his contract with the IRFU.  This new deal, agreed prior to the Tour of New Zealand, allows us to plan beyond the 2023 Rugby World Cup with the certainty that one of the top coaching talents in the game is spearheading the national programme.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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