The nominees for the IRB International Player of the Year Award are out, and there are a few curious choices and notable omissions.
And the nominees are:
- Thierry Dusautoir [Fra]
- Will Genia [Aus]
- Jerome Kaino [NZ]
- Ma’a Nonu [NZ]
- David Pocock [Aus]
- Piri Weepu [NZ]
That’s a pretty unbalanced selection, with far too heavy an emphasis on Southern Hemisphere players. This shortlist suggests that there’s an enormous disparity between player talent in the hemispheres, a position which the World Cup has proved to be nonsense.
Blame the panel. Who are these jokers? Actually, they’re Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace. Wooops. Difficult to quibble with that level of international experience and achievement, although Pienaar outed himself as a reactionary twit with his halftime comments during the France vs Wales semi-final, and Umaga is – never let it go unsaid – a filthy cheat.
Bizarrely, Piri Weepu – who has been named on the bench more often than in the starting lineup for New Zealand this year – makes the shortlist of the six best players in the world. The guy that was keeping him out of the team must have been awesome. No, it was actually Jimmy Cowan. Or sometimes Andy Ellis. Both titans of the game. The short sentences indicate [in this instance] sarcasm.
Seriously, what the f*ck is Piri Weepu doing on a list of the best six players in the world? It’s well known that the Mole is a fan of the wee fatso, but he’d barely make it on to a list of the best six scrum-halves in the world [Genia, Phillips, Yachvili, Parra, du Preez, Weepu would be the Mole’s choice at the time of writing]. Once you start bringing the likes of Piri into consideration, the whole shortlist is open to question. How many good games do you have to have? One? Three?
Would the people of New Zealand have shat themselves if Piri Weepu had torn his adductor instead of Dan Carter? Would they f*ck. He only started one game in the World Cup pool stages!
Of the players listed, the ones the Mole has the least issues with are Ma’a Nonu [who has had a ferocious year] and probably Jerome Kaino; Kaino has held together a New Zealand backrow that was plagued with injuries and has had a truly magnificent World Cup.
David Pocock put in an immense performance against South Africa in a game where Bryce Lawrence didn’t bother to ref the breakdown, but just got pwned at the weekend by Richie McCaw in the biggest game of their respective careers. I’m not at all sure that his eight test matches this year – including two in which he was played off the park by McCaw – make him worthy of a nomination.
Cowpoke is a smashing player, but his form in Super Rugby wasn’t anything to write home about – the Mole knows that’s not a criterion for judgment of this award, but that same patchy form was there in the first two matches of the Tri-nations, against a piss-poor Boks third choice in Sydney and a New Zealand team that laid the wood on the Wobs in Auckland.
In Pocock’s three games against the Boks this season, openside Heinrich Brussow went off after 50 minutes in the Tri-Nations game in Durban [which was his first test in 21 months due to a series of injuries] and after 19 minutes of the World Cup quarter-final.
Pocock thus played 171 minutes of rugby against Dion Stegman, Jean Deysel and Francois Louw, and 69 minutes [less than a single game!] against Brussow. Easy to look good against those chumps, frankly, just like it’s easy to look good against Robert Barbieri of Italy, who has started 11 tests in 5 seasons, or a man legitimately old enough to be your dad, 38-year old Russian Vyacheslav Grachev.
The Mole is of the opinion that he had two very good performances this season – one in the Tri-Nations against New Zealand in Brisbane [against an All Black backrow that for the vast majority of the game included Victor Vito and Ali Williams, it should be said], and the aforementioned QF against South Africa. Two good games? Woop-de-f*cking-doo, frankly. That McCaw took him to school two out of the three times they faced each other is reason enough in the Mole’s mind that Sur Ruchie should be on the list ahead of him.
Sean O’Brien is an enormous and inexcusable omission: he has been very close to the best ball carrier and tackle-breaker in the world this season. Named by the RWC11 tournament website as the best player of Group C, he also scooped European Player of the Year and was unlucky to miss out on Six Nations Player of the Tournament. O’Brien should be right up there challenging for the award, but he doesn’t even make the shortlist. Nonsense.
Mike Phillips and Jamie Roberts are likewise hugely questionable omissions; so too Sam the Eagle and Morgan Parra. Laugh if you want, but Parra has taken France to a World Cup final as a scrum-half playing outhalf, and kicked 100% in a semi-final that was won by a single point. He put Jamie Roberts down every single time the huge Newport Express ran at him, despite being outweighed by 30kgs+. He shredded both the English and Welsh defences from outhalf, even if his outside backs didn’t always capitalise on his breaks.
How the f*ck does Piri make it on ahead of him?