France scrum-half Antoine Dupont has been named World Rugby’s men’s player of the year, beating the short-listed Australian duo of Michael Hooper and Samu Kerevi to the accolade, while England’s lock Zoe Aldcroft has taken the women’s award.
The stocky and explosively quick Dupont has been outstanding for France in the past two seasons, helping Les Tricolores become a competitive side once again under coach Fabien Galthie after years of mediocrity.
The 25-year-old was outstanding in orchestrating attacks as France ended the year with a 40-25 win against New Zealand to end a 14-match, 12-year losing streak to the All Blacks.
He also captained the side in the Autumn Series in the absence of skipper Charles Ollivon.
“Shoot for the moon,” the Toulouse player wrote in English on his Twitter page, then continued in French: “A big thank you to everyone, and especially to the staff and my teammates.”
Dupont is the third Frenchman to clinch the award after Galthie won in 2012 and flanker Thierry Dusautoir in 2011.
He outdid Wallabies captain Hooper, centre Kerevi and England lock Maro Itoje in the public voting.
The women’s winner Aldcroft helped England win a third successive Six Nations title this year and secure back-to-back wins over New Zealand.
The 25-year-old captained England for the first time in an 89-0 win over the United States that extended the Red Roses’ unbeaten Test run to 18.
“It was an honour to be nominated in the first instance and I’m absolutely over the moon,” she told the Six Nations website.
“Individual awards are a reflection of a team effort and I’d like to dedicate this to all of the teammates, coaching and management staff that I work with.”
She won the public vote ahead of England backrower Poppy Cleall andthe French pair of scrum-half Laure Sansus and winger Caroline Boujard.
Aldcroft is the fourth Englishwoman to win the award following winger Michaela Staniford (2012), backrower Sarah Hunter (2016) and versatile back Emily Scarratt two years ago.
“To follow in their footsteps is an amazing feeling,” Aldcroft said.