In what was an already poor month for the IRB, the
governing body finished it with yet another boob in their
random nominations for player of the year that failed, once
again, to acknowledge a tight forward anywhere in the world.
Amazingly, in the 11 years the player of the year award has
been running, only one tight forward, England's Steve
Thompson, has made the shortlist.
Rugby preaches core values of team-work and unity, promotes
the need for collective effort and frowns at rival code
football's cult of "me", and then every year can't
congratulate the glory boys quickly enough.
There is no gripe with Richie McCaw receiving the reward, but
a shortlist that included one openside flanker and three
first-fives is hardly representative or reflective of how
test football works.
Rugby is a jigsaw - each individual does their job and the
big picture emerges. It's easy to see what Daniel Carter
does; easy to be impressed by the likes of Julian Savea and
Bryan Habana in full flight, but so much of what they do is
only possible because of the supremely efficient work being
done by numbers one to five.
Surely it's about time the likes of Tony Woodcock, Dan Cole,
Adam Jones and Jannie du Plessis were recognised for their
endlessly good and vital contributions?
These men are as much the rock stars of the world game as the
10s and wings who steal the show, maybe even more so, and not
once in 11 years has a prop made the IRB shortlist.
Even stranger is that in European club rugby it is the props
who are regularly the top earners - the IRB might not have a
clue, but club owners know the value of big men who can
scrummage and clean out. These are thankless but vital chores
that might seem mundane, but they are as skilled and as
important as making a linebreak.
There is no need to denigrate Owen Farrell and Freddie
Michalak as players - yet the point still stands, the panel
that judges this year's awards have made a nonsense of them -
just like all of their predecessors. Can we really take them
seriously when they appear to actively exclude the tight
Even McCaw was a little perplexed by the shortlist.
"Probably a little bit I suppose," he said. "It is quite hard
I suppose to pick out all the guys because there are guys who
have done well for us at various times throughout the year.
There are a few guys who put up their hands at times. I think
someone like Kieran Read and Israel Dagg - they have both
been a significant part of how this team has gone.
"Even a young fella like Aaron Smith who has been reasonably
"So I think when you are in a team you realise that each
person does their role each week to ensure that the team
plays better. Sometimes there are individuals that look good
but it is the team effort that helps that. That is the tough
part of an individual award in a team sport - who has made
those guys look good."
Woodcock probably reacted the best when he was told that a
prop had never been on the shortlist. "Really? Is that right.
- By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday in London