All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick has been crowned World Rugby Player of the Year for 2014.
Retallick, who played in New Zealand’s 34-16 victory over Wales on Saturday, became the fourth player from his country to win the award presented to him in Cardiff after the clash at Millennium Stadium.
The 23-year-old, who has played 35 Tests for New Zealand since making his debut against Ireland in June 2012, has thrived in the All Blacks’ pack and follows in the footsteps of teammates Kieran Read (2013), Dan Carter (2005 and 2012) and Richie McCaw (2006, 2009 and 2010).
He edged out Willie le Roux (South Africa), Julian Savea (New Zealand), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland) and Duane Vermeulen (South Africa) for the award.
Retallick’s accolade completes a hat-trick of awards for New Zealand, as the All Blacks were named World Rugby Team of the Year for the eighth time and Steve Hansen the World Rugby Coach of the Year for the third year in succession.
All three of these awards are selected by an independent panel of judges, chaired by Australia’s World Cup 1999 winning captain John Eales and also comprising Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphael Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustin Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace.
Under Hansen’s guidance in 2014 New Zealand equalled the record of 17 consecutive victories by a major nation, secured a series whitewash over England, the Bledisloe Cup for the 12th successive year and won a third Rugby Championship title in a row.
World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Brodie Retallick has been at the heart of another hugely successful year for the All Blacks with his superb lineout skills, ball carrying ability and work at the breakdown playing a huge role in a June series win against England, the Rugby Championship title and a strong November series.
“New Zealand showed again in 2014 that they are the team to beat in international rugby, demonstrating remarkable consistency and dominance, the likes of which has rarely been seen before.”