World Rugby has announced star-studded panels for the World Rugby Awards 2019, which will take place at The Prince Park Tower Tokyo on 3 November, the day after the Rugby World Cup 2019 final in Japan.
As in previous years, the panels have all been reviewed to ensure specialist panel members are assigned to each award category and for the first time there will be separate panels to determine the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard.
The voting timelines have also been reviewed to generate greater fan-engagement throughout the year, starting from this week when panel members will cast their first votes of the year for their respective awards.
Former Samoa centre Seilala Mapusua, Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan and two-time Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Melodie Robinson of New Zealand come onto the men’s 15s panel to join a blend of test stars and World Rugby Hall of Fame inductees in Maggie Alphonsi, Fabien Galthié, George Gregan, Richie McCaw, Brian O’Driscoll, Agustín Pichot and John Smit.
The new Women’s 15s Player of the Year panel features three Rugby World Cup winners in Danielle Waterman, Robinson and Will Greenwood, World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Liza Burgess, Ireland duo Lynne Cantwell and Coghlan, former France captain Gaëlle Mignot, former USA Sevens captain Jillion Potter, journalist Stephen Jones and former New Zealand Sevens captain Karl Tenana.
Two Rugby World Cup winners in former New Zealand captain Fiao’o Faamausili and Springbok Bryan Habana join Felipe Contepomi and Jamie Heaslip on the panel for the Breakthrough Player of the Year in association with TUDOR award, won by South Africa’s Aphiwe Dyantyi in 2018.
A panel of five former players and coaches, meanwhile, will determine the World Rugby Coach and Team of the Year in Alphonsi, O’Driscoll, Pichot, RWC 2003 winning coach Clive Woodward and former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett.
The World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Sevens Player of the Year awards in association with HSBC have previously been voted for by team managers, commentators, match officials and players but a dedicated panel of former sevens stars has been introduced for 2019. The panel features Kenya’s Humphrey Kayange, former Canada captain Jen Kish, Tiana Penitani, Tenana, Waterman and two-time Rugby World Cup Sevens winner Marika Vunibaka of Fiji.
Gregan said: “I’m really looking forward to an exciting rugby calendar which culminates with Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. There will be some outstanding individual and team performances throughout the season so deciding who will be the World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year is going to be a challenging one. I look forward to joining my fellow panellists and making those decisions together.”
Coghlan said: “2019 will be another great season of world rugby, across a number of competitions, culminating in the men’s Rugby World Cup. It is an honour to be part of such an esteemed panel that will discuss and debate the players and teams that excel in their performances, demeanour and rugby values that set the benchmark for others across the world.”
Courtesy of World Rugby