Here are our awards for 2017 in full thanks to hundreds of public nominations. Thanks to everyone who got involved and congratulations to all of those named.
XV Player of the Year - Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
Unsurprisingly, New Zealand players dominated the nominations for this award after their World Cup winning season and this accolade had to go to the game's 'Wonder Woodman'.
Her World Cup was remarkable, even more so given she was coming off the back of a brilliant sevens season, and she was outstanding as the Black Ferns won a fifth title in Ireland. The dangerous winger became the face of the tournament, scoring a hatful tries, including four in the semifinal win against the United States. A brilliant player who had a brilliant season.
It has also been great to see Woodman use her profile to good effect over the past year, subtly criticising the schedule of the World Cup when she said that men would struggle to deal with it, calling for more funding for grassroots rugby back in New Zealand and encouraging her union to take action to ensure that players are not enticed by the lure of other sports.
Honourable mentions also go to Sarah Goss, who has made a fantastic fist of her time in the XV game; the brilliant French backrows Romane Menager and Safi N'Diaye and England's outstanding fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean and centre Rachael Burford.
XV Coach of the Year- Glenn Moore
It's impossible to look beyond Moore, who led the Black Ferns to World Cup victory in an outstanding year, where his side dropped just one game. Though his 2018 involvement is uncertain, Moore has indicated he wants to stay involved and given his success it would be something of a surprise if the NZRU didn't sign him up longer term. Having taken over in 2015, a year after huge World Cup disappointment, Moore has done a stellar job of making his side world beaters again and in integrating players from the Black Fern sevens programme.
Honourable mentions also go to England's Simon Middleton, who led his side to the World Cup Final and through an unbeaten Autumn and 6 Nations winning title, and Scotland's Shade Munro who led his team to two 6 Nations win after a seven year drought and their best 6 Nations since 2006.
XV Team of the Year and Sevens Team of the Year - New Zealand
Hard to look beyond the World Cup winners here. Winning a fifth World Cup in Ireland, New Zealand were the top point and try scorers in the tournament. Their success came after hosting the International Women’s Rugby Series in June with the hosts beating Australia and Canada before losing to England. Their display in the final, trailing by 12 points at one stage, was simply outstanding.
The Ferns were also totally dominant in the World Sevens Series and easily won the votes for both of these awards.
They have righty been commended back in New Zealand with a raft of awards since returning from Ireland. England XVs should also be highly commended for a highly succesful season.
XV Squad of the Year
In a World Cup year, it is always tempting to name only players from the teams who made the semi-finals - after all they are the players who have done it when the pressure is on most. But it has been a year where a wealth of players from all over the world in a variety of tournaments have impressed, and we have aimed to reflect that here.
While many of the star names from the World Cup are featured, it is improtant to recognise rugby at all levels, so we are delighted to find room for Sweden's young Ylva Schwartz. Players from lower tier nations have little chance to show what they can do, but Ylva was everywhere in her test against Finland, scoring three tries and setting up at least one more.
USA's feats in getting to the World Cup semi-final could also not be overlooked. And on the bench we've named Japanese youngster and scrumhalf Moe Tsukui, who was brilliant for her inventive side in Ireland while Emily Scarratt covers a more than one position from the bench.
Of course a raft of high quality players miss out here (in any other year would players like Karen Paquin, Emily Scarratt Patricia Garcia, Rachael Burford, Rachel Taylor, Lindsay Peat and co miss out?) and we agonsied over some of these calls given how close the nominations were - but such is the competition in the game now.
And if you're surprised by some of the ommissions here - remember we have a rule that players cannot be named in both the 7s and XV squads of the year in these awards, therefore Sarah Goss has been moved into the sevens squad as has Marjorie Mayans, Naya Tapper and Shannon Izar.
1 Toka Natua (New Zealand)
2 Laura Russell (Canada)
3 Sarah Bern (England)
4 Lenaig Corson (France)
5 Harriet Millar-Mills (England)
6 Sara Parsons (USA)
7 Romane Menager (France)
8 Sarah Hunter (England)
9 Kendra Cocksedge (New Zealand)
10 Katy Daley Mclean (England)
11 Lydia Thompson (England)
12 Alev Kelter (USA)
13 Stacey Waaka (New Zealand)
14 Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
15 Selica Winiata (New Zealand)
Replacements: Amy Cokayne (England), Tiffany Faaee (USA), Tamara Taylor (England), Marlie Packer (England), Moe Tsukui (Japan); Victoria Subritzky-Nafitali (New Zealand), Ylva Schwartz (Sweden)
Sevens Player of the Year- Micheala Blyde
Nominations were, unsurprisingly, dominated by New Zealanders, but young Michaela Blyde shaved our award. A former track and field athlete, Blyde first appeared for the Ferns in the Oceania championship while still at school.Taking over from Portia Woodman as the try scoring machine for the Ferns, this young 22 year-old scored a remarkable 40 tries in the 2016-17 World Series, she won the same award from World Rugby in October (not that we normally take any notice of such things, but it is nice to agree occasionally!).
Her speed, combining with all-round talents of Portia Woodman, created a potent brew that opposition defences could not cope with. But she is not just about ending the moves created elsewhere, Blyde was also ranked highly across all areas of the game, including tackles as well as breaks - where she was supreme, and you feel that there is plenty more to come.
Sevens Coach of the Year – Allan Bunting
In the five years since we opened up our awards to reader nominations it is hard to think of any category where those nominations have been as near unanimous as this one, this year.
Deputy to Sean Horan for four years, Alan stepped into the lead role after Horan’s departure last November at a difficult time for the Ferns. Olympic and World Series silver medals made it look like they had slipped behind rivals Australia in a format they had dominated since the World Series began. 2017-18 was expected to continue the trend.
But Bunting more than turned it round. The Ferns dominated the series, losing just won game, wining five of the six tournaments, and the series by a record margin – 16 points clear. After two rounds the contest was literally just about who came second. Dubai in November suggested 2018-19 may be more difficult, but even so Bunting was by far the most successful coach of 2018.
Sevens Squad of the Year
The squad is inevitably dominated by New Zealanders, who take five of the 12 places. Pretty much the entire New Zealand squad was nominated but in the end we went for Goss, Tui, Blyde and Nathan-Wong with Woodman in the XV team. The rest of the squad was really tough. The only team to beat the Ferns in 2017 was the United States, and one of the highest number of nominations came in for Naya Tapper. Canada are represented by Landry - the year’s top points scorer.- and Jen Kish, arguably the most instantly recognisable player on the circuit whose awesome power and personality is going to be severely missed after she announced this to be her last season.
France also have two in our squad, with Marjorie Mayans up front and Shannon Izar just shading compatriot Camile Grassineau mainly because Izar has perhaps the best and most reliable boot in the sevens game. Elena Zdrokova – shortlisted for our young player of the year last year – was also at the centre of Europe’s top sevens team. Which finally - and perhaps most remarkably - means room for just one Aussie, Charlotte Caslick
And remember, players cannot be named in the sevens and the XV team.
Sarah Goss (NZL)
Marjorie Mayans (FRA)
Ruby Tui (NZL)
Jen Kish (CAN)
Portia Woodman (NZL)
Naya Tapper (USA)
Ghislaine Landry (CAN)
Shannon Izar (FRA)
Michaela Blyde (NZL)
Elena Zdrokova (RUS)
Tyla Nathan-Wong (NZL)
Charlotte Caslick (AUS)
Young Player of the Year: Sarah Bern (England) and Moe Tsukui (Japan)
We have joint winners here for the first time.
Bern, England's 20-year-old prop has had a standout 2017 and looks set to be a star for years to come in the front row, so long as she can stay injury free. Having made the step front from the U20s to the senior squad earlier this year, Bern's potential was clear in the five Six Nations game she played as well as in the three tests against New Zealand this summer.
It is an understatement to say that at the World Cup she went from strength to strength. Bern was brilliant when she had her chances and was particulalry outstanding in the semi-final against France. Although she missed England's Autumn series due to injury, at such a young age, some rest at the end of a hectic year could do her the power of good. Not so much a star of the future as a star of now.
Meanwhile Japan's Moe Tsukui, who was the youngest player at the World Cup, impressed everyone so much that she was selected for the official "Dream Team" by World Rugby at the end of the tournament. A 17 year-old high school student, Moe - at only 152cm - was also one of the smallest players in Dublin, but she more than made up up for her lack of years and stature in a performance that put of the best players in the world in the shade. Hopefully she will be given more opportunities to show her talent between now and 2021.
Stars of the Year: Lisa Naumann, Johanna Metternich, Lynn Schüller, Vivian Salim - founders of Rugby United, a weekly rugby programme for refugees in Cologne, Germany.
This quartet of women's rugby players and coaches established the excellent Rugby United, a programme that uses rugby to help integrate refuguees in Germany. The project has been successfully running for over a year now, and the volunteers are involved in every aspect of the programme, including picking the children up, running the training sessions, going to events and refugee homes to advertise the programme, and generally ensuring they can offer rugby training and therefore cultural integration.
Currently, children from two refugee camps in Cologne are being picked up by bus week after week and driven to ASV's Rugby Park for training and thanks to donations, all of the children have rugby attire for the sessions with many going on to play in local club rugby games.
See here for more on this great project.