It’s no surprise to see three players who will start the final named on the shortlist, with Curry joined by South African duo Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe following the Springboks’ Rugby Championship triumph and run to the final.
Curry is not the only home nation interest included though as Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has been shortlisted, having led his country to a Six Nations Grand Slam earlier in the year and the World Cup semi-finals, where they suffered a narrow defeat against the Springboks to leave them in Friday’s third-placed play-off against New Zealand.
The All Blacks have one representative included in the form of flanker Ardie Savea, who scored their only try against England last weekend in their semi-final defeat, although it does continue the remarkable streak of having at least one New Zealander shortlisted for the 15th year running.
The final player shortlisted is the United States’ hooker Joe Taufete’e, who last March became the most prolific front-row try-scorer in history after a hat-trick against Uruguay took him to 18 career tries in just 21 tests to surpass Keith Wood’s 13-year record.
But two players who have excelled in Japan this autumn are surprisingly left off the shortlist in the form of England lock Itoje and Fiji wing Semi Radradra, the latter of which lit up the pool stages with his phenomenal performances against Australia, Georgia and Wales. There is also no space for any Japanese players, despite their historic run to the quarter-finals on home soil.
Curry has been a standout for England all year, winning 13 of 14 Tests so far and claiming the man of the match award in the World Cup quarter-final victory over Australia.
But he will come up against a Springboks side that has lived up to expectations by following up the Rugby Championship triumph with a run to the final in Japan, with Du Toit and Kolbe at the heart of South Africa’s resurgence under Rassie Erasmus this year. Du Toit is recognised for finally making the No 7 Springbok jersey his own this year, starting eight out of 10 tests, while Kolbe returns from an ankle injury for the final after proving one of the players of the pool stage in Japan.
Savea proved to be one of the few highlights of the year for the All Blacks, with his back-row pairing with Sam Cane allowing the Hurricanes flanker to wreak havoc all around the park during their World Cup campaign, while Jones’s contribution to Welsh rugby not just in 2019 but throughout his 13-year international career will be recognised on Friday night when he becomes the outright second-most capped men’s player of all time.
World Rugby also announced that three English players feature on the Women’s Player of the Year shortlist in the form of prop Sarah Bern, fly-half Katy Daley-McLean and centre Emily Scarrett, following their Six Nations Grand Slam triumph earlier this year.
The Red Roses trio are joined by 2014 award-winner Kendra Cocksedge of New Zealand and Pauline Bourdon of France, with the two half-backs recognized for the displays during the Women’s Super Series in the US this summer.
The men’s shortlist was finalised by past World Cup winners Richie McCaw, John Smit, George Gregan, Maggie Alphonsi and Melodie Robinson, along with Fiona Coghlan, Brian O’Driscoll, Fabien Galthié, Agustín Pichot and Seilala Mapusua.
Deciding the women’s shortlist was former World Cup winners Melodie Robinson and Danielle Waterman, alongside Liza Burgess, Lynne Cantwell, Fiona Coghlan, Gaëlle Mignot, Jillion Potter, Karl Te Nana and The Sunday Times’ rugby correspondent Stephen Jones.
Both Eddie Jones and Erasmus are up for the Coach of the Year award alongside Steve Hansen of New Zealand, Warren Gatland of Wales and Japan’s Jamie Joseph.
World Rugby award shortlists
Men’s XVs Player of the Year: Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa), Tom Curry (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa), Ardie Savea (New Zealand) and Joe Taufete’e (USA).
Women’s XVs Player of the Year: Sarah Bern (England), Pauline Bourdon (France), Kendra Cocksedge (New Zealand), Katy Daley-Mclean (England) and Emily Scarratt (England).
Team of the Year: England, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Wales.
Coach of the Year: Rassie Erasmus (South Africa), Warren Gatland (Wales), Steve Hansen (New Zealand), Eddie Jones (England), Jamie Joseph (Japan)
Breakthrough Player of the Year: Joe Cokanasiga (England), Herschel Jantjies (South Africa), Romain Ntamack (France)
Try of the Year: Charles Ollivon (France vs Wales), Sergio Parisse (Italy vs USA), TJ Perenara (New Zealand vs Namibia), Cobus Reinach (South Africa vs Canada)
Men’s Sevens Player of the Year: Folau Niua (USA), Stephen Tomasin (USA) and Jerry Tuwai (Fiji)
Women’s Sevens Player of the Year: Sarah Hirini (New Zealand), Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand) and Ruby Tui (New Zealand).
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service
Award for Character
IRP Special Merit Award
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