The Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year have been announced with Antoine Dupont (France) and Zoé Aldcroft (England) scooping the two prestigious categories.
The first Frenchman to win the award since Thierry Dusautoir in 2011, scrum-half Antoine Dupont received two-thirds of the public vote, having been at the heart of a fast-developing young French team capturing the imagination ahead of a home Rugby World Cup in 2023.
The 25-year-old’s reading of the game, allied with his passing speed and turn of pace, invariably mean he’s in the right place to start or finish off a flowing French attack.
He crossed for three tries in the Six Nations and then was handed the captaincy for the Autumn Nations Series, leading France to three wins, including a first over New Zealand on home soil since 2000.
The other nominees were Michael Hooper (Australia), Maro Itoje (England/British and Irish Lions) and Samu Kerevi (Australia).
In the Women’s section, England’s Zoe Aldcroft picked up the Women’s 15s Player of the Year award.
Named England captain for the first time on her 25th birthday, Aldcroft led the Red Roses to an 89-0 victory over the USA and marked the occasion with a try.
Equally comfortable in the second row or on the blindside, she has established herself in a powerful England pack with assured performances that make her one of the first names on Simon Middleton’s team list.
Aldcroft started all eight of England’s matches in 2021 as the Red Roses extended their unbeaten run to 18 tests and won a third successive Women’s Six Nations title.
The other nominees were: Caroline Boujard (France), Poppy Cleall (England), Laure Sansus (France)
TRY OF THE YEAR
In one of the other much talked about awards, earlier this week Damian Penaud’s effort against Scotland was named as the 2021 Try of the Year.
Going from one 22 to another, France fashioned a score for the ages in their delayed Six Nations match at the Stade de France.
Taking a quick tap from a marked box kick, full-back Brice Dulin set off on an electrifying run before finding Romain Ntamack and Arthur Vincent in support.
Antoine Dupont swiftly transferred the ball away from the breakdown and Virimi Vakatawa drew the defence before offloading to Penaud whose footballing skills – including a chip, case and dribble – took him over in the corner for a wonderful try.
The other nominees were Lukhanyo Am (South Africa A, v British and Irish Lions on 14 July), Pierre-Louis Barassi (France, v Australia on 17 July) and Luke Jacobson (New Zealand, v Argentina on 12 September).