Ireland and Leinster loose forward Josh van der Flier’s outstanding season was rewarded when he was crowned as the men’s World Rugby Player of Year for 2022.
The 29-year-old received his award at the world governing body’s awards ceremony in Monaco on Sunday evening.
In excellent form in 2022
Van der Flier has been in excellent form this year and played a leading role for Ireland during their historic 2-1 series victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand and also helped his country to the number one position in World Rugby’s official rankings list.
The openside flanker beat off stiff competition from his Ireland and Leinster team-mate Johnny Sexton – who won the award in 2018 – South Africa’s Lukhanyo Am and France’s Antoine Dupont, who was last year’s victor.
Van der Flier was ever-present for Ireland in 2022 as he started in all of their Tests and scored four tries for his country.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have great teammates and coaches that have really pushed me on, as well as my wife and my family supported me a huge amount,” he said.
“I’m lucky to have some very experienced, top quality players and especially in my position both in Ireland and in Leinster, so I’ve always felt I’ve needed to be playing at my best the whole time or I wouldn’t be playing, so that’s certainly driven me on.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand co-captain Ruahei Demant walked off with the women’s Player of the Year award after playing a leading role in the Black Ferns’ recent World Cup triumph on home soil. Demant’s team-mate Portia Woodman, Alex Matthews (England), Sophie de Goede (Canada) and Laure Sansus (France) were the other nominees for the award.
“Like most of our team, and like many players in New Zealand, I come from a very, very small place,” said Demant. “And to be able to put on the black jersey it was a dream. I never knew about the Black Ferns growing up as a kid.
“I guess like most women my age, women’s rugby was never accessible, was never something that you kind of aspired to be like, because you never had role models like that to look up to.
“And that was one of the great things about this World Cup, it was free to air, so everyone could watch it. But people could turn on the TV or go to the games and see people that look like them and so many strong women out there doing amazing incredible things.
“We had a great bunch of girls who put their heart and soul and body on the line for everyone, regardless of whether or not they’re playing. So we got the job done. But we also had a great time a lot of fun doing it as well.”
Double delight for New Zealand
It was double delight for New Zealand after Wayne Smith was crowned as the World Coach of the Year. Ireland men’s coach Andy Farrell and England women’s coach Simon Middleton were the other nominees for that award.
It was also a special night for Italy full-back Ange Capuozzo, who was named World Breakthrough Player of the year, beating out Ireland’s Dan Sheehan and Mack Hansen as well as Henry Arundell of England.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont congratulated all the award winners.
“On a special night, there was so much to celebrate about a remarkable 2022, but for me it was the power of personality that has stood out this year,” he said.
“Rugby World Cup 2021 and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 were shining examples of rugby’s personality in action. The way that players engage with fans and their accessibility shows that high performance athletes can and should be themselves and have fun. They inspired, they moved and they played brilliant rugby.
“As a sport, we must harness and celebrate the power of personality if we are to grow, to be relevant and attract new audiences. In our award winners, we have superb role models, but by being accessible on social media, the next generation of players and fans can relate to them.
“Congratulations to all our award winners, but just as importantly, I would like to congratulate everyone who has played their part in getting our sport back up and running since the pandemic – the coaches, match officials, players, mums, dads and fans. Without you there is no sport.”
2022 World Rugby award winners
Men’s 15s Player of the Year: Josh van der Flier (IRE)
Women’s 15s Player of the Year: Ruahei Demant (NZL)
Coach of the Year: Wayne Smith (NZL Women’s 15s)
Men’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year: Ange Capuozzo (ITA)
Women’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year: Ruby Tui (NZL)
Men’s Sevens Player of the Year: Terry Kennedy (IRE)
Women’s Sevens Player of the Year: Charlotte Caslick (AUS)
International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year: Rodrigo Fernandez (Chile, v USA on 9 July)
International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year: Abby Dow (England, v Canada on 5 November)
World Rugby Referee Award: Tappe Henning (South Africa)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service: Dr Farah Palmer (New Zealand)
International Rugby Players Special Merit Award: Bryan Habana (South Africa)