Richard Loe on rugby

Richard Loe is a former All Black

Richard Loe: Who's this they've got up against Richie?

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Owen Farrell. Photo / Getty
Owen Farrell. Photo / Getty

The poor old International Rugby Board - they just can't get anything right at the moment.

Their judicial system has been making a right hash of the penalties dished out to players for various crimes - and then they announce nominees for the IRB International Player of the Year.

Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Freddie Michalak and Owen Farrell. I'm sorry ... who? Owen Farrell? World player of the year? He's not even the No1 first five-eighths in the England team - and only started against the All Blacks last night because of injury to Toby Flood. What he is doing on this list is way beyond me.

It makes me think of that description of rugby's powers-that-be years ago by former England skipper Will Carling, who called them "old farts". I maybe wouldn't go that far but there's no doubt a nomination like that leaves a bad smell ...

It's an object lesson in how to rob a global award of any credibility. Apparently the nominations came from a nine-man panel of some of the biggest names in international rugby - John Eales (Australia), the chairman, Will Greenwood (England), Gavin Hastings (Scotland), Raphael Ibanez (France), Francois Pienaar (South Africa), Agustin Pichot (Argentina), Scott Quinnell (Wales), Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace (Ireland).

These blokes know a thing or two about rugby and they have apparently watched all the tests of 2012, starting from the Six Nations and ending with the November tests currently on view in the Northern Hemisphere. They awarded points to the three players they thought stood out in each match. Presumably something like the 3-2-1 points system.

So my question is: how did Mr Farrell get on this list?

He's got a pretty good reputation and most judges think he will be a class first-five. He played in nine tests this year - against Fiji, Italy, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and South Africa. England lost to Wales, lost two and drew one (out of three tests) against South Africa and won the rest.

It's hardly an earth-shattering record (played nine, won five, lost three, drew one) and, while Farrell apparently played well, he wasn't earth-shattering either and wound up being replaced by Flood.

You can't blame the player. Like I say, he is supposed to be talented. But I bet he won't be thanking the IRB for this nomination in the same week as he went up against the All Blacks.

He would have been sitting in the changing room knowing that the All Blacks will be thinking, 'who is this pup who wants Richie's title?' He's just lucky Andrew Hore wasn't there.

The reality, of course, is that they won't be giving the title a thought.

These awards are flawed things. How can you compare rugby players across positions where the job descriptions differ so much? These awards tend to go to first fives, wingers and skippers. Yet those who score tries do so because of the efforts of the other 14. The goalkickers win games with their boot, sure, but they couldn't do so unless their team-mates had got them into the right position.

It looks like it's a sop to the English, who haven't had a player win the award since Jonny Wilkinson in 2003.

For my money, the title is Richie McCaw's, hands down. Dan Carter hasn't done quite enough this year in my view and Michalak had a good season but tended to go missing at the business end of Super Rugby this year. We need not discuss Mr Farrell further.

McCaw has been simply outstanding.

He could have been forgiven for having a bit of a flat season after skippering the All Blacks to the World Cup last year (with an injury) but he has been a key component in lifting his team to new levels this year. He played, counting last night, 13 tests and I can't think of one that wasn't at a world-class level.

If you have to judge the unjudgeable and give a gong to someone, he is clearly the best player in the world this year and, if the IRB want to restore the credibility lost with Farrell's nomination, they'll give it to Richie - making him the first player to win it four times.

Actually, he's the only player to have won it more than once. Quite right too.

- Herald on Sunday

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