Just what is the IRB trying to prove?

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012
Owen Farrell
Getty Images
SURPRISE PICK: Owen Farrell has been nominated for IRB player of the year.

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OPINION: Somebody should cite the IRB for nominating Owen Farrell for the international player of the year award.

It smacks of a political statement rather than a sensible assessment of the world's best players through 2012.

Surely, IRB boss Brett Gosper will launch another appeal. This one may be justified.

Alongside All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, a three-time winner of the award, test rugby's record point's scorer Dan Carter and reborn French first five-eighth Frederic Michalak, Farrell looks like a schoolboy, as out of place as a kilt in central London.

It's been some time - nine years to be exact - since Jonny Wilkinson last won the award. That's no excuse for a political French kiss. No reason to appease and pander to the Poms.

Farrell, the son of dual international Andy, has pedigree. He made his debut in this year's Six Nations and is a talented test rookie, an accurate goal-kicker and strong defender. But as Stuart Lancaster's second-choice pivot and after just nine tests, he is not fit for such a nomination. Not yet anyway.

Many thought Farrell made the shortlist of the young player of the year award, only to stare in disbelief on second glance.

The saving grace for the IRB would be if Farrell had been included as part of a policy to recognise future stars. That would fit admirably in the spirit of the global game, given former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga, a Laureus award-winner for sportsmanship, was among the nine-man panel.

Otherwise, the governing body has created unnecessary confusion.

To be fair, Farrell didn't ask for the nomination. And it's is one the 21-year-old could probably do without, just two days before he starts, by default, with Toby Flood injured, in the No 10 jersey against the world champions. He didn't need further pressure and scrutiny in-front of 80,000 at Twickenham.

Inspirational Argentinean captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, the world's best No 8 Kieran Read, Welsh flanker Dan Lydiate and lethal All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg, or even South African wing Bryan Habana were more deserving of the recognition.

In the end it won't matter, because when McCaw inevitably wins the prize at least it will regain some credibility.

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- Fairfax Media

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