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A day after just falling short in the Rugby World Cup final, going down 12-11 in Paris, Savea beat out Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth, France’s Antoine Dupont and Bundee Aki of Ireland for the award. The last All Black to be named men’s 15s player of the year was Beauden Barrett in 2017.
Up on stage, Savea was still wearing the scars after playing 80 minutes in an epic final in which he became stand-in captain when Sam Cane was red carded in the first half.
“I’ve been going by this mantra all year - very blessed and very grateful to be up here,” Savea said. “For an individual to stand out it’s based off the foundation of the team. Massive shout out to Foz, Skip and my brothers this year and the last couple of years and the journey we’ve been through.”
Savea joins Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick and Barrett as All Blacks to win the award.
Neither Ian Foster nor Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber were named coach of the year, with the award going to Ireland’s Andy Farrell. Ireland won the Six Nations title in February and held the number one ranking going into the World Cup before being knocked out by Foster’s All Blacks in the quarter-finals. It is just the second time the coach of the year award has not gone to the World Cup-winning side - in 2015 Australia’s Michael Cheika won over Steve Hansen.
Tele’a became the fourth All Black to win men’s breakthrough player of the year, beating out teammate Tamaiti Williams, South Africa’s Manie Libbok and France’s Louis Bielle-Biarrey. Last year fellow winger Will Jordan won the award.
“I’m really grateful to be part of this team,” Tele’a said. “To my teammates, they put me in the right part of the field to beat defenders and that’s how I do what I do.”
World Rugby also named a Dream Team of the year with Savea joined by teammates Scott Barrett, Richie Mo’unga and Will Jordan. Etzebeth was the only Springboks player named in the side with five players from both Ireland and France.