Bundee Aki – one of Ireland’s standout performers at the Rugby World Cup – has been nominated for the Rugby Player of the Year Award.
It has been a rollercoaster year for Irish rugby. With Six Nations success and a number one ranking under their belt, expectations were high going into the Rugby World Cup in France.
However, New Zealand broke Irish hearts, sending the side out at the quarter-final stage with a 28-24 defeat.
While it was a sorry end to the tournament for Ireland, one of the team’s stars has been afforded some consolation: centre Bundee Aki has been nominated for the Men’s 15s Player of the Year award.
Bundee Aki – an excellent tournament
Eligible to represent New Zealand and Samoa, Aki opted to represent Ireland after completing a three-year residency period. The centre has since made 53 appearances for Ireland, helping the team to two Six Nations Championships in the process.
He was an instrumental part of the Ireland team that started this year’s Rugby World Cup as favourites and scored two tries against both Romania and Tonga and one in Ireland’s quarter-final defeat to his native New Zealand.
Men’s 15s Player of the Year award – a prestigious honour
The nomination for this prestigious honour will come as a minor consolation for Aki after Ireland’s early exit from the Rugby World Cup.
The Men’s 15s Player of the Year award was first presented in 2001, with Ireland’s Keith Wood the first recipient. Two other Irish players have won the honour: recently retired Johnny Sexton (2018) and Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier (2022).
This year, Aki faces stiff competition for the award from France’s Antoine Dupont, as well as South Africa’s Eben Etzebeth and New Zealand’s Ardie Savea, who go head-to-head in tomorrow’s final (28 October).
The story of the Rugby World Cup – Ireland falter again
Ireland entered the 2023 World Cup as the top-ranked side in the world off the back of a 15th Six Nations title.
They eased through the pool stage with victories against South Africa, Scotland, Tonga, and Romania to set up a scintillating quarter-final tie against three-time champions New Zealand.
A close encounter in Paris saw the All Blacks come through victorious: their 28-24 win enough to send Ireland crashing out at the quarter-final stage for the fourth consecutive tournament.
New Zealand went on to thump Argentina in the semi-final, while South Africa – having beaten hosts France in the quarter-final – pipped England by a point to set up Saturday’s showdown. All eyes return to the Stade de France as both sides vie for a fourth Rugby World Cup.
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