So over the Christmas period we have sat down to work out the following shortlists and winners of our inagural Japan Rugby Blog 2017 awards. If you don’tagree witht the winners, them please leave your comments below and pick your winners.
Best match featuring Japan in 2017
- France vs Japan
- Japan vs Tonga
- Japan vs Romania
The winner has to be France vs Japan, 23-23, a match Japan should/could have won with the last kick of the game. Sadly it wasn’t to be, but as mentioned previously in our blog, it laid down a terrific marker to Tier One nations for 2019.
Best Japanese Player
- Fumiaki Tanaka
- Yu Tamura
For me this possibly is a heart of head decsion, Tanaka has to take this one. I love seeing him play, as he totally represents the ethos behind the Brave Blossoms.
Best England Player
- Mario Itoje
- Owen Farrell
- Elliott Daly
- Joe Launchbury
- Anthony Watson
Highly debated in the household, however with a secret ballot Elliott Daly snatched it by one vote. If Itoje carries on, in 10 years he’ll be hailed in the same breath as Martin Johnson, as will Farrell. Launchbury has done so well this season to battle back into Eddie Jones squad, while Watson now looks like the 2019 replacement for Brown at full back. Daly however is one of those players no team love to play against and would all love in their team. A superb runner, passer of the ball, awesome in the tackle, he’s a complete player and barring his recent injury, should have good 2018.
Best British Lions Player or Tourist
- Conor Murray
- Owen Farrell
- Liam Williams
- Alun Wyn Jones
Another tough one, Williams played superb and possibly helped scored one of the all time great Lions tries during the series. Murray, playing against the World’s best Scrum half in Aaron Smith, did a wonderful job and surely cemented himself as a serious contender for Smith’s title. The Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones certanly led on the field, but for me, Farrell, now on his second Lions tour, brought experience, points and leadership on the field. If he helps England win the 2019 World Cup he’ll of cemented his reputation as a true rugby legend.
International Player of the Year 2017
- Beaudan Barrett
- Sonny Bill Williams
- Conor Murray
The winner has to be Barrett. Simply outstanding on the field, his speed, passing and out of hand kicking has been imense. One area he doesn’t excel in like Farrell is his kicking, however he has plenty of other skills in the tool box to help the spotlight shift onto them and not have questions raised on his spot kicks. Dangerous in open play or sniffing around the 5 metre line, Barret is a legendary All Black in my books already.
Best and Worst Aviva Kit 2017
Best – Joint winners – Leicester Tigers Home kit (classic design) and Bath Home
Worst – Joint winner – Harlequins Home kit (an historic kit ruined by the designer) and Northampton Away (Grey!!!!)
Aviva Breakthrough Player
- Marcus Smith
- Faf De Klerk
- Sam Simmonds
A joint award is needed here, with Smith and De Klerk sharing the trophy. Smith has been a life saver at Quins for manager John Kingston and without him then Quins could of been looking at a relegation battle. Already being touted as the next Ford/Farrell, the apprentive is surely going to spend the next few years learning his trade and could be a suprise inclusion for the 20199 Rugby World Cup.
If you watch him in the Avivia, you’ll see De Klerk probably has the best pass in the Aviva, mixed with the speed and cunning of Danny Care. He’s a dangerous scrum half to face and its only time before the South African RFU raise the funds to bring him back to SA and into the Springboks.
Aviva Manager of 2017
- Johan Ackermann – Gloucester
- Rob Baxter – Exeter
- Dean Richards – Newcastle
This is a tough one. Baxter has done so well at Exeter and is a potential England manager in waiting, while Richards has made Newcastle the team no one wants to play on a cold Friday night…Newcastle never give in. However Ackermann has worked wonders at Gloucester and has turned the club around and instilled a belief in the players. Glouscester have been a tough team to break down in recent months…all credit to Ackermann, especially after losing several key players and working on limited resources.
The Biggest Question Mark Award
- Dylan Hartley – England Captain in 2018?
- Wales finding Warren Gatland and his successor
- Will Scotland compete for honours in the 6 Nations?
Hartley seems to be on holding on by his finger tips, with Jones taking Hartley’s personality over form as the reason he’s in the squad at present. No longer so we see those smashing runs from Hartley, which is now highlighted even more when Jamie George takes to the field. Wales will come under increasing pressure to start the hunt for Gatland’s successor, possibly to bed them and shadow Gatland before 2019. Finally, after Scotlands impressive Autumn series, will we finally see Scotland compete for 6 nations honours. We feel the biggest question that needs to be answered is Hartley and his position within the squad. Coming into 2019 we need a regular caption and possibly it could be Farrell who steps up in the last 18 months to take on the honour.
The Next Big Player Award
No shortlist is needed, as a clear winner stands out.
- Marcus Smith
Not only is he having a great impact at Quins, he’s also working with the England squad as an “apprentice”. Watch this space, could Smith be on the plane heading to Japan in 2019…I would say he would.
Happy New Year everyone.