Black Ferns fly high at World Rugby Awards

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World champion Black Ferns captain and first five-eighths Ruahei Demant has been named World Rugby's women's 15s player of the year.

Demant said the award was unexpected.

"Like many rugby players in New Zealand I come from a very small place and to be able to put on the black jersey was a dream. I never knew about the Black Ferns as a kid. Like many women my age now, rugby was never accessible and it was never something you aspired to because you never had role models like that to look up to.

"That was one of the great things about this World Cup, (1) it was free to air so everyone could watch it but people could turn on the tele or go to the games and see people that looked like them and so many strong women out there doing amazing and incredible things."

Coach Wayne Smith headed a strong list of contenders to be named Coach of the Year. In capping an outstanding career in which he won two men's World Cup medals in 2011 and 2015, and this year's Women's World Cup, he headed off Ireland coach Andy Farrell, French coach Fabien Galthié and beaten England women's coach Simon Middleton.

Smith answered the call to help the Black Ferns after their disappointing northern tour last year and after a review saw the resignation of coach Glenn Moore, Smith was appointed.

He set about changing the Black Ferns style of play and succeeded in helping them secure their sixth World Cup title by beating France 25-24 in the semifinal and England 34-31 in the final.

Smith commented after receiving the award: "I was caught in a landslide…but I've ended up on a goldmine."

He added that he was confirming he would return to retirement.

He said he was honoured to accept the award on behalf of the Black Ferns.

"We started eight months ago together and at the start it was a bit like taking my granddaughter and all her friends to Disneyland. They were excited, joyful, noisy and then they all found the courage to hope on the rollercoaster. And that rollercoaster was our attacking game, our all-out attack.

"So the girls turned into Wāhine Toa - warriors.

High-profile Black Ferns fullback and wing Ruby Tui was awarded the Women's 15s breakthrough player of the year.

She was named ahead of fellow Black Fern lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos, England's Maud Muir and Fiji's Vitalina Naikore.

It was her second World Rugby award having been named Women's Sevens player of the year in 2019.

There was an added bonus for Tui when she was presented with a new Cup winners' medal after she gave her medal to a young fan who was a leukaemia survivor and who Tui met in the lead-up to the final.

And in recognition of her role in New Zealand Rugby, former Black Ferns captain Dr Farah Palmer was presented with the Vernon Pugh Award for distinguished service to the game.

Demant, second five-eighths Theresa Fitzpatrick and wings Tui and Portia Woodman were included in the women's 15s dream team of the year.

The women's team of the year was: 1.Hope Rogers (USA), 2.Emily Tuttosi (Canada), 3.Sarah Bern (England), 4.Abbie Ward (England), 5.Madoussou Fall (France), 6.Alex Matthews (England), 7.Marlie Packer (England), 8.Sophie de Goede (Canada), 9. Laure Sansus, 10.Ruahei Demant (New Zealand), 11.Ruby Tui (New Zealand), 12.Theresa Fitzpatrick (New Zealand), 13.Emily Scarratt (England), 14.Portia Woodman (New Zealand), 15.Abby Dow (England).

All Blacks captain and lock Sam Whitelock and wing Will Jordan were included the men's 15s dream team of the year.

The men's team of the year was: 1.Ellis Genge (England), 2.Malcolm Marx (South Africa), 3.Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 4.Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 5.Sam Whitelock (New Zealand), 6.Pablo Matera (Argentina), 7.Josh van der Flier (Ireland), 8.Gregory Alldritt (France), 9.Antoine Dupont (France), 10.Johnny Sexton (Ireland), 11.Marika Koroibete (Australia), 12.Damian de Allende (South Africa), 13.Lukhanyo Am (South Africa), 14.Will Jordan (New Zealand), 15.Freddie Steward (England).


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