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Ireland’s Van der Flier named men’s Rugby Player of the Year

Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier was named men’s World Rugby Player of the Year on Sunday after helping his country to a first series away win in New Zealand and to the top of the global rankings.

The 29-year-old won the award ahead of Leinster and Ireland team-mate Johnny Sexton, victorious in 2018, South Africa centre Lukhanyo Am and last year’s winner, France scrum-half Antoine Dupont.

New Zealand co-captain Ruahei Demant took the women’s Player of the Year award after the Black Ferns won the Rugby World Cup win on home soil earlier this month.

Van der Flier, who has Dutch grandparents, scored five tries in 11 Test appearances throughout the 12 months, which included starting all three games in the victorious July tour over the All Blacks.

At domestic level, he crossed six times as Leinster reached the final of the European Champions Cup before losing to French club La Rochelle.

ALSO READ: Lukhanyo Am voted SA’s best player in 2022

Elsewhere, Italy’s Ange Capuozzo, who can play across the back-three, claimed the Breakthrough Player of the Year prize.

Capuozzo started 2022 with French second-tier side Grenoble before ending it with a try in Saturday’s loss to South Africa a week after touching down during a win over Australia and creating a try in a win over Wales in the Six Nations.

New Zealand flyhalf Demant, who succeeds English lock Zoe Aldcroft, was key to New Zealand’s World Cup victory, turning in a Player of the Match performance in the final as  the Black Ferns came from behind in the second half to beat England 34-31. 

The 27-year-old won the award ahead of New Zealand teammate and 2017 winner Portia Woodman, England flanker Alex Matthews, Canadian back row Sophie de Goede and France scrum-half Laure Sansus.

Demant’s fellow Black Fern Ruby Tui took the women’s Breakthrough Player of the Year award and Wayne Smith claimed the Coach of the Year prize after guiding the Kiwis to the title.

“It’s amazing to be here, it’s been a whirlwind,” former sevens specialists Tui said.

“It’s such an honour to win the award at 27 and a half years old. I think I’ve set the record as the oldest rookie in 15s! I’ll take it.”

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