England World Cup final stars snubbed on player of the year shortlist – The Guardian

Posted: November 1, 2019 at 10:46 am

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Maro Itoje heads a list of England players snubbed by World Rugby for its player of the year award despite their march to the World Cup final. Tom Curry is the only member of Eddie Joness squad on the six-man shortlist and while the 21-year-old would become the youngest ever recipient of the award, a number of his team-mates are notable by their absence.

Itoje was named man of the match for his performance against New Zealand in last weekends World Cup semi-final and has been among the standout performances throughout the tournament. Like a host of other England players, including Owen Farrell, George Ford, Kyle Sinckler and Manu Tuilagi, he can consider himself unfortunate to be overlooked for the prestigious award, however.

Englands opponents in Saturdays final have two representatives on the shortlist with the flying winger Cheslin Kolbe joined by Pieter-Steph du Toit, having also played a key role in claiming the Rugby Championship title for South Africa. Alun Wyn Jones, who captained Wales to the Six Nations grand slam and World Cup semi-final, the All Black flanker Ardie Savea and the USAs Joe Taufetee who earlier this year became the most prolific try-scoring front-row forward in history, complete the nominees.

The 21-year-old Curry is the youngest member of Englands squad but he will not become the youngest ever World Cup winner if Eddie Joness side lift the trophy. That record is still held by Frans Steyn, who was 20 when South Africa beat England in the 2007 final, and who is on the bench for the Springboks on Saturday.

The average of Englands XV is 27 years and 60 days, making it the youngest team to start a World Cup final in the professional era, however. And the 23-year-old Sam Underhill, who has dovetailed to devastating effect at flanker with Curry, said: Its definitely a positive having younger players in the side. Theres a lot of energy and enthusiasm to be had from that. Its been good for the squad dynamic as well, as we can mix experience with guys who are keen to learn, which has been good. So I think by and large its been a good thing, but I dont think its something that you really notice.

You look at the younger players and they dont seem that young. You look at Tom Curry; hes the youngest in the squad but he doesnt seem like a young player or a junior player which fills you with a lot of confidence.

Meanwhile, Prince Harry has sent a good luck message to the England squad before Saturdays final. Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the Duke of Sussex will be in attendance for the match. He is a longstanding England supporter as well as being a patron of the Rugby Football Union and included a photograph of his five-month old son Archie in an England jersey in his video message.

When asked if he had received support from the Royal Family, Underhill said: Not personally! But as a group weve had a couple of messages from Prince Harry. He sent us a nice message of support, which was nice to receive. He showed his little lad in an England shirt, so that was a nice touch. Im still waiting on my personal message!

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England World Cup final stars snubbed on player of the year shortlist - The Guardian

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November 1st, 2019 at 10:46 am