The Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association has today unveiled the nominations for the Zurich Irish Rugby Players’ Awards, taking place on the 4th of May at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel Dublin.
Ten awards will be given out at the ceremony, culminating in Irish rugby’s ultimate accolade being presented – the Zurich IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year Award. For the first time ever the four shortlisted nominees of the main award consist of one from each Irish province – Rory Best (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht) Jack McGrath (Leinster) and CJ Stander (Munster). Voted on by their fellow professional teammates, the four finalists have been selected based on consistent form across the Pro 12, Champions Cup, Challenge Cup, World Cup and 6 Nations.
In his role as Irish captain, Rory Best has been pivotal all season for both Ireland and Ulster. He was arguably Ireland’s stand out player of the World Cup tournament, leading from the front and establishing himself as one of the finest hookers in the world.
For the second consecutive year, Robbie Henshaw has been nominated after standing out in both the World Cup and 6 Nations tournaments. Provincially Henshaw was once again a shining light in what was a landmark year for Connacht rugby and its ongoing evolution.
Jack McGrath has put in immense work for his country, appearing in every Irish game this season and nailing down a starting spot in his province of Leinster. He has shown himself to be equally adept in both the tight and loose, establishing himself as world class front rower over the course of this year.
CJ Stander, the stand in Munster captain, made his debut for Ireland in the 6 Nations and looked as though he’d been there for years, such was his ease of transition. He also led his provincial team Munster with an unparalleled determination, setting the tone with his tireless workload.
The Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year – an award which Henshaw has won for the last three years – will also be announced. This year it is contested by a host of talented young players who have stormed onto the scene. Leinster have two representatives in Gary Ringrose and Josh Van Der Flier, whilst Ulster’s blockbusting midfielder Stuart McCloskey rounds out the trio. The three players have had breakthrough seasons for their provinces with the latter two making their debuts for Ireland in the 6 Nations.
Amongst the other prestigious awards, the BNY Mellon Hall of Fame will take place on the night, with the recipient to be announced in due course.
Other awards presented on the evening include: The Volkswagen Try of the Year, The Irish Times Supporters’ Player of the Year, the Zurich Contribution to Irish Society Award, the BNY Mellon Women’s XVs Player of the Year, the IRUPA Women’s 7’s Player of the Year, the Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa Moment of the Year and The Vodafone Medal for Excellence.
Commenting on the Awards night was Former IRUPA Board Member and Player of the Year 2015, Paul O’Connell: “To be nominated for an IRUPA Award is such a fantastic achievement, it really is a great honour to be recognised by your fellow players. I would like to congratulate all the nominees, wish them the best and hope they enjoy the night”.
Conor Brennan, CEO of Zurich Insurance plc, Ireland commented: “The Zurich Irish Rugby Players’ Awards is a great way to recognise the achievements and ongoing contributions of Irish rugby players to both the sporting landscape and wider community. We are proud to support some of Ireland’s sporting role models, and look forward to the event.”
For awards updates, follow us on Twitter @IRUPA or use the hashtag: #RugbyAwards16. For more information on IRUPA, please visit http://www.irupa.ie