Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier named World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year

Terry Kennedy takes World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year at awards ceremony in Monaco

Josh van der Flier has completed a remarkable 2022 by being chosen as World Rugby’s Player of the Year, so becoming only the third Irish winner of the prestigious award after Keith Wood, the inaugural recipient in 2001, and Johnny Sexton in 2018.

The 29-year-old flanker received the award at the annual gala event in Monaco on Sunday night after being chosen from a shortlist which also included Sexton, last year’s winner Antoine Dupont and South Africa’s Lukhanyo Am.

Van der Flier’s award is a reward, as it were, for the remarkable way he has reinvented himself as a potent carrier to complement his voracious tackling and work at the breakdown.

The Leinster and Irish openside played in 10 of Ireland’s 11 Tests, the exception being the Fiji game a fortnight ago. He played every minute of those games bar the last eight minutes of the third Test in New Zealand, equating to 792 minutes out of a possible 800, and scored four tries.


Ireland’s Terry Kennedy was also named World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year after signing off his exceptional Sevens career by being the second highest try-scorer with 50 during the 2022 series, and helping Ireland to victory in the Rugby World Cup Sevens bronze final.

“It’s been incredible. We started at the bottom and have gone to the Olympics and third place at the Rugby World Cup Sevens,” said Kennedy.

Unsurprisingly, Andy Farrell also missed out on the Coach of the Year award, which went to Wayne Smith after he guided New Zealand to victory in the women’s World Cup final over England at Eden Park.

Italy’s Ange Capuozzo has been named World Rugby men’s breakthrough player of the year in a category where both Dan Sheehan and Mack Hansen were also nominated. New Zealand’s Ruby Tui was named women’s breakthrough player of the year.

Australia’s Charlotte Caslick was named World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year. Bryan Habana was the recipient of the 2022 International Rugby Players award while Dr Farah Palmer received the 2022 Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Services. Chile’s Rodrigo Fernandez’s won Men’s Try of the Year and South Africa’s Tappe Henning received the World Rugby Referee Award.

Van der Flier and Sexton, along with Tadhg Furlong and Tadhg Beirne, were named on the team of the decade.

All of the Irish nominees were on a 7am flight to Monaco on Sunday morning and ending with a ninth win in 11 matches, equalling the all-time record of a dozen successive home wins and finishing 2022 ranked first in the world.

“We’d be happy enough, of course, it’d be poor of me to say otherwise,” said Farrell when reflecting on the year. “The autumn was great for us. It certainly shows we’ve not been perfect, it’ll show us where we need to kick on and we’ll see over the next couple of months who is hungry enough to get back in the room.

“We’ll focus on the next time we play, which is Wales away and then the game after that is the French at home and we’ll see about the home record after that,” he said in reference to Ireland’s opening two games next February in the 2023 Six Nations.

As to the naysayers who will be of the view that Ireland have peaked a year out from a World Cup, Farrell laughed and said: “We certainly didn’t peak today! Or last week! It’s good for us, we’ve seen plenty of top-drawer sides - they can win ugly as well, we kept finding a way.”

As with the Springboks, the Wallabies targeted Ireland’s breakdown, whether forcing turnovers or slowing down the speed of the ball.

“Rugby is pretty simple,” said Farrell. “If you slow people’s ball down in many different ways then you can make it a street fight and that’s exactly what they did. The breakdown area, I think it was that ferocious I don’t know if the officials quite knew what was going on really at times because they made it that way, and fair play to Australia.”

What pleased the Irish head coach was that Ireland found a way to win without generating much in the way of sustained attacking play.

“Yeah, exactly, it wasn’t our best and everyone knows that the opposition always has a say in that, but we added a lot to our own downfall at times, certainly discipline wise. I’ve never seen us be as ill-disciplined.

“We’ll have to have a good look at that and the reasons why, and the penalty five metres from their line and another one on the 10 metre line just relieves all the pressure, and we had no ball at all.

“So how we judge our attack is pretty difficult because I think we had 30 per cent possession in the first half and not too much in the second half neither.

“All in all, when you win, lose or draw, with all the controversy before the game, my gut feeling 10 minutes before kick-off, was: ‘Well, look, let’s see what we’re about as a group. Let’s see how we muck in together and help the people that we need to help out.’ In that regard, you can’t lose.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times