After the All Blacks' final test against Italy, Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane will headline the team charge for Player of the Year at the World Rugby awards in Monte Carlo.

It's hard to see either nudging out Irish first five-eighths Johnny Sexton for the top award but these events have a habit of encouraging unusual decisions. Nominations have yet to be revealed for the NZ Rugby awards evening in mid-December and paring that list down to a few players will be a test for the judges to find who follows Sam Whitelock as last year's winner.

His fellow lock Brodie Retallick has been in great touch for all but one of his tests but may suffer because injury cut his season in half, while Whitelock led the side against France but has also been a touch below his most consistent best.


Loosehead prop Karl Tu'inukuafe should canter to the podium for any awards about Newcomer of the Year from Jack Goodhue, while Richie Mo'unga has also made great strides, but they won't challenge for the best All Black this season.

My choice is someone who won't take the field tomorrow in Rome but more than anyone has shone and kept those high standards throughout the season.

Remember the general concern about finding someone to emulate the fire and accuracy Dane Coles brought to his hooking role until calf and knee troubles took some sting out of his game.

Codie Taylor brought the answers throughout the year. He showed the benefits of his three years' experience with the squad and his ability to rise to the next level as he pounded out 15 starts at hooker.

There was never a peep about any set-piece drama, and from what we could see, his lineout delivery and scrum work was on the money.

Round the field, Taylor was another loose forward with his pace to the ball or in support, his clean-outs, tackling and ball-handling offering the sort of style Coles and Sean Fitzpatrick brought in their pomp.

Everything about his work is geared towards the team targets but Taylor has the gumption to go for broke as he showed in creating tries in successive tests against the Springboks when he burst downfield from a ruck in Wellington and threw a peach of a pass to Ben Smith in support and brought something similar in the return test in Pretoria.

In the form Taylor showed throughout the year, Coles was not going to replace him for the major matches on the end-of-year tour and will have to lift his game that little bit more to match Taylor and challenge him for the World Cup starting jersey.