Kieran Read scoops another award to seal status
It's unanimous. All Black No 8 Kieran Read is the best rugby player on the planet.
Read today was named the International Rugby Players' Association's inaugural players' player of the year, and also earned a place in the players' World XV.
That completes a remarkable trifecta for the fabulous All Black, who last night was named New Zealand player of the year after also landing the IRB's prestigious international award.
Read beat out Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny and All Black team-mate Ben Smith to secure the inaugural players' honour, voted on by the game's internationals.
Both Halfpenny and Smith join Read in the player's World XV which includes seven members of the "perfect" 14-0 All Blacks.
Wallaby rookie Israel Folau was also named international newcomer of the year and the All Blacks predictably were team of the year.
Read described his latest honour as "humbling" at a time when he's being honoured on a daily basis.
"There's no greater honour than to be recognised by the people you play against," he said.
"Rugby's a tough game - on the field there's no quarter given or expected. So for your opponents to single you out for this sort of attention means an awful lot."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Read was a deserving recipient of the inaugural title.
"Despite the intense rivalry in international rugby, there's a sense of honour and respect among players that these awards have captured nicely," he said.
The players' World XV also features four Welshmen, two South Africans and one player each from France and England.
There was stiff competition for places at loose-forward, where All Black Liam Messam only just pipped Argentine Juan Fernandez Lobbe for the No 6 berth, and in the halves pairings, where New Zealanders Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden just nudged out Samoan No.9 Kahn Fotuali'i and Irish flyhalf Jonny Sexton.
The most contestable area in the World XV was midfield with voting pretty evenly spread across four players - All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith; South Africa's Jean de Villiers and French inside centre Wesley Fofana.
The final count favoured Fofana and Smith.
Folau, who is the first athlete to play league, Australian Rules and rugby at the highest level, took the international scene by storm in 2013, scoring 10 tries which equalled the Wallabies record for a year set by Lote Tuqiri in 2004.
"I've really enjoyed my first year in rugby, but there is a lot I can improve on which I am now focussing on," said Folau.
Players’ World XV of the Year: Leigh Halfpenny (WAL), Ben Smith (NZ), Conrad Smith (NZ), Wesley Fofana (FRA), George North (WAL), Aaron Cruden (NZ), Aaron Smith (NZ); Kieran Read (NZ), Sam Warburton (WAL), Liam Messam (NZ), Sam Whitelock; (NZ), Eben Etzebeth (SA), Adam Jones (WAL), Bismarck du Plessis (SA), Alex Corbisiero (ENG).