Lydiate shock after tackling his way to Six Nations' player award


He can shear a sheep in three minutes and knock down a Frenchman in a flash.

Dan Lydiate played an absolute blinder in Wales's Grand Slam clincher against France in Cardiff on Saturday and yesterday the dynamic one-man tackle machine of a blindside flanker picked up the 2012 Six Nations Player of the Championship award.

The 23-year-old farmer's son from Llandrindod Wells received more than 25 per cent of votes cast by 30,000 fans, emerging ahead of the Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton and Italy's captain Sergio Parisse.

"I am really surprised, to be honest," Lydiate said. "I'm so happy and so chuffed. I looked at the trophy and you have Shane Williams and Brian O'Driscoll on there – legends of the game. It seems strange for me to pick up the award. It's a massive honour to win, especially given the quality of the other players up for the award."

The shortlist also included Lydiate's team-mates Sam Warburton, Alex Cuthbert and Mike Phillips. "Dan in the French game was absolutely phenomenal," Warburton said. "I've never seen anybody in so much pain after a game. He doesn't feel pain during a game; he has the heart of a lion."

Sadly, the collateral damage suffered over the years by Jerry Flannery has forced the Munster and Ireland hooker to hang up his boots at the age of 33. Flannery has not played since Ireland's World Cup pool match against the United States in September last year because of calf and back problems and has been advised to retire on medical grounds.

"Since my injury at the 2011 World Cup I've struggled to regain the level of fitness required to play at this level," he said. Flannery, who was capped 41 times, was not the only Munster player reaching a crossroads yesterday. Scrum-half Tomas O'Leary, capped 24 times by Ireland, is to join London Irish at the end of the season on a three-year contract.

Brian Smith, London Irish's director of rugby, said: "Tomas will be a fantastic addition to our squad. He will bring with him a wealth of experience and a winning mentality."

The former chief executive of the InterContinental Hotels Group has been hired to run the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. Andrew Coslett will become chairman of the tournament organisers next month.