The IRB have named three nominees for the 2012 Junior Player of the Year Award, set to be announced on Friday after the final.
The winner will join a fairly illustrious list …
2011 – George Ford (England)
2010 – Julian Savea (New Zealand)
2009 – Aaron Cruden (New Zealand)
2008 – Luke Braid (New Zealand)
2007 – Robert Fruean (New Zealand)
2006 – Josh Holmes (Australia) and Lionel Beauxis (France)
2005 – Isea Toeava (New Zealand) and Tatafu Polota-Nau (Australia)
2004 – Jeremy Thrush (New Zealand) and Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)
2003 – Jean Baptiste Payras (France) and Ben Atiga (New Zealand)
2002 – Luke McAlister (New Zealand) and Pat Barnard (South Africa)
2001 – Gavin Henson (Wales)
Cruden has already won a World Cup medal, and Savea has a hat trick of tries in a single Test to his name! 9 of the 16 names are Kiwis, and to a man, all 9 have gone on to represent the All Blacks …
Of the 7 other names on the list, only Henson, Beauxis and Polota-Nau have gone on to have prominent international senior careers.
Sure it’s too early to tell re Ford, but I certainly have never heard of him, and the key question has to be how these bloody Kiwis get their early selections so right? It’s impressive!
No Kiwi winner this year though. Even with their team having made the final, there is no New Zealander in the list of three nominees. The IRB will look pretty damn stupid if the Baby Blacks go on to hammer their hosts on Friday night … Perhaps they play better as a team rather than as individuals?
That said, I do think both Shaun Adendorff and Jan Serfontein, who together with Ireland’s JJ Hanrahan, have been nominated for this year’s award, are very worthy nominees. Both have been truly outstanding this year.
The nominees, with blurbs from the IRB:
A first nomination for Ireland in this Award, the 19-year-old returned for his second Junior World Championship and opened his 2012 account with a 13-point haul against South Africa in Pool B. Hanrahan switched to fly half for the tournament after playing centre in the Under 20 Six Nations, when captain Paddy Jackson didn’t travel, and he has been the driving force in the Irish team often controlling the tempo of the game. An exceptional kicker, possessing maturity and vision with his tactical kicking game, he is the joint second-highest point scorer at JWC 2012. One key reason that Ireland have already guaranteed their best ever JWC finish is the excellent relationship he has formed with his half back partner, Kieran Marmion.
The hardworking and robust 20-year-old flanker enjoyed an inspired match against England in the deciding Pool B clash to ensure the hosts reached the semi finals. He has consistently displayed a fantastic work rate coupled with real pace, and his speed off the mark has been impressive. He has the ability to be at the right place at the right time, and always manages to put his team on the front foot. There has been unquestionable strength and commitment from the player who came into the JWC from the Craven Week tournament, regarded by many as a stepping stone to professional Rugby.
The 19-year-old centre from Port Elizabeth has also starred at the Craven Week tournament, and was named player of the tournament in 2011. With Vodacom Cup experience already under his belt following a debut for the Blue Bulls this year, Serfontein has shown himself to be a class player with excellent distribution of the ball. He is elusive and creative, with great vision and awareness. His running lines have been exceptional, and his ability to break has set up many tries as he creates time and space for others. Serfontein has been described by commentators as a player in the mould of Brian O’Driscoll.