IRPA’s Ultimate Rugby Players’ Player of the Year Award, as voted by the World’s top international Players, has boiled down to a vote-off between Wales, and British and Irish Lions star Leigh Halfpenny, and All Blacks Ben Smith and Kieran Read.
Welsh fullback Halfpenny was a standout performer for Six Nations Champions Wales, eventually being named Player of the Tournament.
Halfpenny played in all three tests on the Lions tour of Australia; breaking the Lions’ point-scoring record (previously held by Neil Jenkins) and being crowned Player of the Series.
Read and Smith have been similarly outstanding during New Zealand’s unbeaten run through the calendar year.
No.8 Read scored six tries in 13 tests and took over the captaincy of the side in the six internationals Richie McCaw was unavailable.
Outside back Smith proved a revelation, scoring 11 tries in 14 games; 10 of them on the wing before switching to centre to fill the vacancy left by namesake Conrad.
Ben Smith has also been shortlisted for the IRPA Newcomer of the Year Award, alongside barn-storming countryman Charles Piutau, and Australian flyer Israel Folau.
Halfpenny said it was a huge honour to be included on a shortlist chosen by his peers and fellow professionals: “I’m thrilled, to be honest,