The All Blacks have been rewarded for a stellar 2010 campaign by sweeping the International Rugby Board (IRB) awards, which were announced this morning (NZT).
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, 29, has been named the IRB player of the year and becomes the first player to win the award three times since its inception in 2001.
The No 1-ranked All Blacks were predictably named team of the year after winning 13 of 14 tests this year and bagging the Tri-Nations title, Bledisloe Cup and European Grad Slam, while Graham Henry was unveiled as coach of the year for a record fourth time after previously winning the award in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
McCaw faced stiff competition for the player of the year award with teammate Mils Muliaina, South African lock Victor Matfield, No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, of France, and rising young Australia stars David Pocock and Kurtley Beale all performing well during the year, but McCaw consistently impressed the IRB's awards panel with some outstanding performances.
"Rugby is fortunate to have a player and person of the calibre of Richie McCaw," said awards panel convenor John Eales, the former Wallabies captain.
"He is an outstanding captain, a world class player and a role model for our sport. In winning the award three times, Richie has truly cemented his place right up there amongst some of the greats."
McCaw who alongside Muliaina is the most-capped All Black with 94 test caps, said: "It's been a good year and everyone has made a huge effort, from the coaches right through all the players. It's been a lot of fun as well to work with quality players, and I just love playing rugby and especially international rugby."
Henry said his award reflected the "hard work" of the team.
"It is also an award for team manager Darren Shand who does a fabulous job, and for the exceptional coaching team (assistants Steven Hansen and Wayne Smith) who work with me.
"I am extremely fortunate to have a group of guys who are exceptionally good at what they do."
The IRB awards panel of judges, comprising former internationals Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphal Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustn Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga, Paul Wallace and Eales, watched more than 78 hours of action from 59 matches, awarding points to the three players they thought stood out in each match.
The accolades cap a good year for New Zealand on the awards front with Julian Savea winning the IRB junior player of the year in June and Carla Hohepa named IRB women's personality of the year in September after New Zealand claimed the women's World Cup title.
The New Zealand winners in the 2010 IRB Awards were:
Player of the Year: Richie McCaw
Team of the Year: New Zealand
Coach of the Year: Graham Henry
Women's Personality of the Year: Carla Hohepa
Junior Player of the Year: Julian Savea
Previous Winners of IRB Player of the Year Award:
2009 - Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2008 - Shane Williams (Wales)
2007 - Bryan Habana (South Africa)
2006 - Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2005 - Daniel Carter (New Zealand)
2004 - Schalk Burger (South Africa)
2003 - Jonny Wilkinson (England)
2002 - Fabien Galthié (France)
2001 - Keith Wood (Ireland)
Previous Winners of IRB Team of the Year Award:
2009 - South Africa
2008 - New Zealand
2007 - South Africa
2006 - New Zealand
2005 - New Zealand
2004 - South Africa
2003 - England
2002 - France
2001 - Australia
Previous Winners of IRB Coach of the Year Award:
2009 - Declan Kidney (Ireland)
2008 - Graham Henry (New Zealand)
2007 - Jake White (South Africa)
2006 - Graham Henry (New Zealand)
2005 - Graham Henry (New Zealand)
2004 - Jake White (South Africa)
2003 - Clive Woodward (England)
2002 - Bernard Laporte (France)
2001 - Rod Macqueen (Australia)