Loose Pass

Date published: November 3 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with some reaction to World Rugby’s latest awards.

A fitting finale for Carter

Dan Carter bowed out of Test rugby in some style on Saturday night by steering the All Blacks to the Rugby World Cup crown but despite his international retirement he is still managing to picking up silverware – in the form of World Rugby’s Player of the Year honour.

There can be no doubt that the 33-year-old fly-half has been in vintage form in recent weeks – although incredibly his last Test try was way back in 2010 – and his third Player of the Year title is a fitting punctuation mark for a stunning international career during which he has amazed, inspired and infuriated defences in equal measure.

This latest accolade also sees him join another departing All Black – Richie McCaw – as the only three-time winners of the award and it seems somewhat fitting that those two legends of the game, the greatest ever All Black and the best fly-half of his and every other generation, sit alongside each other in a rather exclusive club at the end of their Test careers.

It must have been a close call between Carter and Australia’s David Pocock with the latter arguably the most valuable and influential player on the world stage today. But judging panel chair and former Wallabies skipper John Eales was clearly not able to convince enough of the other ex-players and media representatives tasked with choosing the winner that Pocock was deserving of the nod.

While the decision to anoint Carter as the best in the world ahead of Pocock may have surprised some it was not as confounding as the decision to omit Argentina’s Nicola Sanchez from the shortlist of nominees for the award.

The Pumas’ playmaker was in superb form throughout the World Cup and regularly caught the eye during his side’s run to the semi-finals. He also finished the tournament as the leading points scorer with 97 and that kind of form on the biggest stage against the best in the world should not have been ignored.

Hansen hard done by?

Now, let’s get something straight. I’m a huge fan of Australia coach Michael Cheika. It's hard not to be.

He is clearly a talented coach having orchestrated the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship victory and steered them out of the ‘Pool of Death’ and into a World Cup final.

The straight-talking Cheika is also great value when it comes to dealing with the media with his honesty and passion often providing the kind of comment that journalists crave.

But I am not convinced he deserved the World Rugby Coach of the Year honour.

If I was New Zealand coach Steve Hansen I would be a little peeved that coaching a team to the World Cup was not deemed worthy of the award – even if, like the All Blacks’ boss, I had won the award for the last three years.

Hansen refused to revel in his personal triumph over Cheika in the immediate aftermath of his side’s World Cup success but his delight at having shackled the Wallabies’ much-vaunted back-row trio of Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper and Pocock was there to see.

New Zealand may have tasted defeat to Australia in the Rugby Championship but that was the only loss they suffered in their 12 Test outings this year and they extended the Wallabies’ Bledisloe Cup pain and had their revenge just a week later.

Perhaps Eales got his way with this one in his deliberations with fellow panel members Agustin Pichot, Scott Hastings and Nick Mallett?

And maybe another Aussie – Eddie Jones – should have picked up the award? Japan’s victory over South Africa quite rightly hogged the headlines but the Brave Blossoms were far from a one-game wonder.

Three victories – that saw them narrowly missing out on the quarter-finals – is clear evidence of Japan's remarkable transformation under Jones’ charge and it is such a shame for them that he has chosen to step down.

The try heard around the world

Japan were also unlucky not to pick up another award at the glitzy ceremony in London – the Try of the Year award.

New Zealand powerhouse Julian Savea capped a fine World Cup with that particular trophy thanks to his stunning power-packed try against France during their quarter-final clash in Cardiff.

It was a very special score – that immediately drew comparisons to Jonah Lomu’s iconic run through the England defence in 1995 – and it is destined to feature in every World Cup montage in the future but so is the try that should have won.

Japan’s dramatic match-winning effort against South Africa on the opening weekend may not have packed the visual punch of Savea’s score but when you factor in the stage of the game, captain Michael Leitch's bold decision to opt against a kick for the posts in favour of running the ball and the sporting history made as a result, you surely cannot look past Karne Hesketh’s five-pointer.

It was a well-worked move, executed superbly under the most immense pressure and its impact will reverberate for years to come in a region where World Rugby is desperate to grow the game and so it was surprising they chose not to celebrate that fact.

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Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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