Billy Vunipola named player of the year

Billy Vunipola, George Smith and Maro Itoje were all winners in London on Wednesday.

Billy Vunipola has been crowned England’s Player of the Year after playing a starring role in the nation’s Grand Slam victory.

Vunipola produced three man-of-the-match performances from five games to help England to their first Six Nations Grand Slam triumph since 2003, and the back-rower was rewarded with the top gong at the Rugby Players’ Association Awards in London on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old Saracens star edged Chris Robshaw, Anthony Watson, George Kruis and Anthony Watson to win the award.

Former Wallabies flanker George Smith, meanwhile, was named the Players’ Player of the Year.

Smith – a 111-cap international – showed age is no barrier, the 35-year-old making 17 appearances for Wasps, who made it to the Aviva Premiership play-offs as well as the Champions Cup semi-finals this season.

“It’s a truly humbling feeling to receive this award, especially as it’s voted for by my peers,” Smith said via the Wasps’ official website after beating Nathan Hughes, Charles Piutau, Andy Goode and Thomas Waldrom.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my season playing in England and representing such a determined and driven club like Wasps has made my job so much easier.

“I have cherished each moment I have taken the pitch, the fans in England are superb and I look forward to finishing our season on a high as we strive towards success in the play-offs.”

Saracens youngster Maro Itoje took out the Young Player of the Year, while former Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll was inducted into the RPA Hall of Fame.


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