STEWART ISLAND, NZ – With the sod at Eden Park finally getting a well-deserved reprieve from the onslaught of spikes and cleats and pounding rains, we figured it was best to take our first-ever Rugby Wrap Up Rugby Awards – The Wrappys – to a place off the beaten (literally) track, to Johnathan Wicklow Barberie’s home turf here, just south of Stewart Island, which is decidedly less worn. Consider The Wrappys as the Rugby Oscars:
WORST PERFORMANCE: This was a toss-up. We could have easily picked this player as the Wrappy Award Winner for Favorite Player – but it would have been for the wrong reasons. So, we’ll stick to our guns and go with Russian fly half Yury Kushnarev, who was shipped to Siberia early in the 2nd half for missing 17 penalty kicks against Team USA. We tried reaching Yury but we’re told he’s been reassigned by the Rugby Union for Russia.
FAVORITE PLAYER: Hands down, this Wrappy goes to Team USA Eagle, Mike McDonald. The rumbling, stumbling throwback prop with the cheesy mustache simply played great rugby for the soaring Eagles. He tackled, ran the ball, passed and played a mean prop.
BEST PLAYER: Okay, we’re going against the grain here by NOT awarding Thierry Dusautoir this one. Why? Because prior to the Final, we didn’t hear his name called or see any semblance of the Herculean player he became once the cameras were all on him. And as yesterday’s interviewee, Ollie Phillips of England said, guys like Mike Phillips of Wales, David Pocock of Australia and a number of the champion All Blacks played every minute like it was their last. Jerome Kaino gets this coveted Wrappy. Like a handful of his mates and unlike the aforementioned Phillips and Pocock, he played all 7 matches, and, unlike Dusautoir, he was stealthily sublime in each match. The great players are great because they play every play like a champion. Kaino did just that.
BEST LOOK: The was truly an all-star lineup of Who’s Who in terms of facial hair and hairstyles. The usual suspects like our buddy Todd Clever, were almost normal compared to The Beardos (Adam Kleeberger, Jebb Sinclair, Hubert Buydens) of Canada, The Mop Top, Radike Samo of Australia or Adam Jones or Wales. The winner, Civil War General look-a-like, Adam Kleeberger.
BEST NAME: This was perhaps the toughest category for a Wrappy. Richard Wigglesworth of England, Scott Higginbotham of the Wallabies and Daniel Tailliferrer Hauman van der Merwe of Canada. But we’re going with Leigh Halfpenny of Wales, who came up a schilling short of knocking off France with a 50 metre kick that just failed the crossbar.
BEST COACH: Here’s the controversy. We’ve got a draw. Wales skipper Warren Gatland had his young Welsh squad inches from the Final Four despite getting shafted by the referees against South Africa and then, in tragic fashion, against France. Look, the guy lost to Tournament’s 2nd best team by ONE POINT while his squad was a man short – their captain – for the last 60 minutes. That’s World Class Coaching. His southern hemisphere co-winner, New Zealand’s Graham Henry, gets our nod for handling an impossible situation that could only have one result – a Rugby World Cup. Granted, his All Blacks were the favorites – but that was with Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina. It wasn’t with Stephen Donald as his kicker in the Finals. His team may have had its heart torn along with Carter’s abductor, but Henry made certain their soul was in tact. We’d let either of these guys coach our squad any day. Oh, and the fact that Wales dropped from 6 to 8th in the current IRB rankings, is absurd.
That’s it for The Wrappys as we see them… Feel free to come up with your picks.
Tomorrow, Eagle 7s Captain Matt Hawkins is back with his weekly piece.