IRB Player of the Year Posted about 5 years ago

So what do you think of the nominations for the IRB player of the year? The six players put forward are Thierry Dusautoir, Piri Weepu, Jerome Kaino, Ma’a Nonu, David Pocock and Will Genia. It looks an unfortunately biased selection to me.

The panel of judges consisted of chairman John Eales, Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphael Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustin Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace. Why biased, you may ask.
I will throw several reasons out there at you. The first is that the selection (which gives World Cup matches more weight) favours players in teams that go a long way in the competition. Indeed there is not one player from a side that did not make it through to the semi-final. This strikes me as silly.

You could be the world’s greatest player in an ordinary side and have little chance of making the final cut. It naturally discriminates against the smaller nations who play fewer internationals and have less chance of making it to the final stages of the World Cup.

I can feel another rant coming from the Pacific nations and I will man the barricades alongside. All the points they make about the IRB being a closed shop of privileged nations is supported by this vote. The panel is an amalgam of the old boys club.

The panel is not even balanced. Why, for example, are there two centre three quarters on the panel (it is a long time since Tana Umaga was a genuine wing) and not a wing or a fly-half. In my view it is absurd that Dan Carter is not on the shortlist, but Piri Weepu is.

Some of the list just looks silly. The John Eales medal is given to the top Australian player as voted for by his peers. It was won by Kurtley Beale from Stephen Moore just prior to the World Cup, with the rest a long way behind. The IRB boys have gone for Will Genia and David Pocock. Why call it the IRB player of the year? Why not just call it the best player from a top tier nation at the World Cup?

And I know back row forwards are all the rage at the moment, but should there really be three flankers in the line-up (but no Sean O’Brien or Kieran Read). Of course if you are a loosie, you have an unnaturally high chance of winning the prize, as flankers have been victorious in four of the previous seven years.

There are also two scrum-halves on the list. It looks an imbalance and one wonders why no front five forward was deemed good enough. How well did Martin Castrogiovanni play this year. Italy may have beaten France in the Six Nations, but they are not good enough to make the knock-out stages, so it is arrividerci.

My vote for player of the year is:
1. Jerome Kaino (yes, sorry, I know, a flanker)
2. Dan Carter
3. Martin Castrogiovanni

We would love to know what you think.

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Mark Reason has been a sports journalist for over 25 years. He currently works for Fairfax Media and will also be part of the Telegraph's World Cup team and a regular panellist on Radio New Zealand during the World Cup. He has covered every Rugby World Cup since 1991, the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, over 40 golf major championships, the FA Cup final, the Epsom Derby and a lot of other stuff he can't remember. Mark emigrated to New Zealand in 2010 having spent over 20 years covering sport for the Telegraph and Sunday Times in Britain.

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