RPA Awards 2018: winners announced

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The winners of the 2018 RPA Players’ Awards in association with England Rugby were announced on a glittering night at Battersea Evolution.

Saracens prop Mako Vunipola was awarded England men's player of the year following his performances for club and country.

“I’m so proud to be recognised with this award and thankful for the support shown by my teammates,” said Vunipola.

“I cherish every moment I get to represent my country and for me there is no prouder moment than taking the pitch in an England shirt with my mates.” 

The O2 England women's player of the year was won by Danielle Waterman who earlier this month called time on her glittering international career.

The Wasps Ladies FC full back retires at sixth on the all-time list of England Women’s appearances with her 82 caps, while she is one of the leading try scorers as she has crossed 47 times.

She made her Test debut at the age of 18 in 2003, England’s youngest ever player at the time, and went on to feature in four Women’s Rugby World Cups, was a try-scorer in the 2014 World Cup win and also played sevens for Team GB at the 2016 Olympic games.

“In my opinion, being nominated by your team mates for an award like this, is one of the biggest accolades you can ever receive," said Waterman. "I am truly honoured."

Former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward was inducted into the RPA’s hall of fame for his contribution to the sport, which included guiding England to Rugby World Cup glory in 2003.

“It is a great honour to be inducted into the RPA Hall of Fame, alongside some wonderful players and personalities who have contributed so much to the game,” said Sir Clive.

“I still consider myself a player first and a coach second. It was my experiences as a player that have shaped my approach to coaching. I still view the game through a player’s eyes and I am sure that is why I love the game now as much as ever."

 

Marcus Smith, who had a breakthrough year with Harlequins in the Premiership, and who was named as an apprentice by England head coach Eddie Jones throughout the season was named young player of the year.

“To receive this award, voted by the players means a lot to me,” said Smith.

“I have enjoyed the year tremendously and would like to thank everyone at Harlequins and England who have given me such great support. I look forward to next season in anticipation of some more great experiences and some big wins for Quins.”

Chris Wyles was awarded the RPA personal development programme award for his work away from rugby.

The highly versatile Wyles who has made more than 235 appearances for Saracens and represented the USA on 54 occasions, has been rewarded for his work co-founding Wolfpack Lager with former teammate and retired South African lock Alistair Hargreaves.

Launched in 2014, Wolfpack Lager is now served in more than 60 pubs across the capital, has a permanent ‘bus bar’ at Allianz Park for Saracens home games, and just last week saw the successful opening of the Wolfpack bar in north London.

“It's feels fantastic to have won this award, said Wyles.” We've worked very hard to create what we think is an exciting business and this recognition is the icing on the cake! I'd like to thank the RPA and Saracens for their continued support.”

Bedford Blues back Michael Le Bourgeois was named the 2018 Greene King IPA Championship player of the year at the RPA awards.

Alex Matthews was named England Women's sevens player of the year after helping them win bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.

“I’m extremely surprised, yet grateful to be given this award by my teammates,” said Matthews.

“My reintroduction into the sevens game has been a pretty special season. I never thought I’d achieve the things I have, and I can only thank the players and staff around me, it’s down to the environment and culture we’ve produced.”

Fellow England Sevens squad member Ruaridh McConnochie won the equivalent men's award after also helping the side to bronze at the Games

“I love playing around the world with these guys and have done for the past three seasons," said McConnochie. 

"It’s a massive thing for me to recognised by my mates for something like this and I’m really honoured to receive the award.”

Sports commentator Ian Robertson received the RPA special merit award for his work in rugby.

Robertson, who commentated on England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup victory, will retire from broadcasting at the end of the season.

“One good commentary for the BBC in 46 years and lo and behold I receive the 2018 RPA Special Merit Award,” said Robertson.

"In brief I feel honoured, humbled, surprised beyond belief, thrilled and very grateful. Thank you Jonny for kicking that drop goal in 2003, and thank you to the RPA for making an old man very happy.”

Doddie Weir and Ed Jackson both received the Blyth Spirit Award, which recognises tremendous courage in the face of adversity. 

And the night rounded off with Leicester Tigers full-back Telusa Veainu capping off an extraordinary season by being named the player of the year at the 20th RPA players’ awards.

The prolific ball-runner polled the most number of votes from his fellow professionals to claim the most prestigious award in the English game at a glittering awards ceremony in central London. 

The 27-year-old, who has been capped nine times by Tonga, has been in sensational form in 2017/18, scoring seven tries for Leicester and proving an absolute handful for opposition defences across the Aviva Premiership, beating more than 85 defenders, and making over 1,500 metres.

"It’s an enormous privilege to win this award," concluded Veainu. "I am very surprised but also very thankful for the awesome support shown by my peers." 

 


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