Read, Smith nominated for IRPA players' award

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 07:53 28/11/2013
Ben Smith and Kieran Read
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DOUBLE NOMINATION: All Blacks Kieran Read and Ben Smith will vie with Welsh star Leigh Halfpenny for the inaugural rugby players' player of the year award.

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All Blacks Kieran Read and Ben Smith will vie with Welsh star Leigh Halfpenny for the inaugural rugby players' player of the year award.

The International Rugby Players Association released their shortlist today.

The trio will be judged by their peers with the winner to be named next week.

All three are also finalists in the separate and long-established player of the year award organised by the International Rugby Board. The winner of that will also be announced next week.

Read looks a strong bet for both awards, given his outstanding displays during the All Blacks' unbeaten year.

He scored six tries in 13 tests and developed his attacking game to be a big threat out wide as a ranging No 8. He also took over the captaincy in Richie McCaw's frequent absences.

Outside back Smith proved a revelation this season, scoring 11 tries in 14 games, 10 of them on the wing before switching to centre for the end of year tour north.

But fullback Halfpenny has strong claims. He was a outstanding in Wales' Six Nations triumph, eventually being named Player of the Tournament.

Halfpenny played in all three tests on the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia. He broke the Lions' point-scoring record held by Neil Jenkins and was named player of the series as the Lions scored a rare victory.

Despite making his test debut in 2009, Smith has also bizarrely been shortlisted for the IRPA newcomer of the year award, alongside two genuine test rugby rookies - barn-storming All Blacks wing Charles Piutau and Wallabies  outside backs utility Israel Folau.

The IRPA awards also see their members voting on a World XV of the Year and Team of the Year with the All Blacks sure to pick up the latter and dominate the form combination.

The awards also feature fan awards for both the player of the year and the World XV.

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