x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Williams named IRB Player of the Year

The Winger Shane Williams became the first Welshman to be named the International Rugby Board (IRB) Player of the Year.

Shane Williams, right, has been in devastating form this year.
Shane Williams, right, has been in devastating form this year.

LONDON // The Winger Shane Williams became the first Welshman to be named the International Rugby Board (IRB) Player of the Year. Williams headed off teammate Ryan Jones, the New Zealand fly half and 2005 recipient Dan Carter, the Italy captain Sergio Parisse, and the Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair. The diminutive finisher scored six tries during Wales' Six Nations Grand Slam, and became his country's all-time leading try scorer. After being named Six Nations player of the year, he touched down in each of the summer Tests in South Africa, and has 43 tries in 60 Tests.

"It's quite mad to be honest," Williams said after receiving the award. "It's been a hell of a year and this has just capped it off really. It's the biggest honour you can get as an individual in rugby and it's totally overwhelming." New Zealand dominated the other leading awards, reclaiming the team of the year, and Graham Henry was named the coach of the year. After a disappointing World Cup last year, the All Blacks have won 12 of 14 Tests in 2008, retaining the Tri-Nations title and Bledisloe Cup, and in with a chance to complete their third ever Grand Slam of the Home Nations next Saturday against England.

"It's been very satisfying," Henry said. "There have been 15 or so players who left us after the Rugby World Cup to play in this part of the world so it's great to have a team that's relatively young and inexperienced come through and do the business." DJ Forbes, who led New Zealand in its domination of the sevens world series, was named the sevens player of the year, and Luke Braid, a member of the New Zealand team which won the world junior championship, was named the junior player of the year.

Carol Isherwood of England was named the women's personality of the year, and the former Argentina captain Agustin Pichot, who retired from Test rugby after the World Cup, received a special merit award for his services to the game. Andre Watson of South Africa, who refereed the 1999 and 2003 World Cup finals, received an award for distinguished service. *AP