Of all the awards World Rugby handed out at what looked like a lavish ceremony in Monaco (as if there is any other sort), we should perhaps be most pleased with the recognition given to the Black Ferns.

After they won the women's world Cup in such thrilling fashion – coming from behind to beat the might of England in Belfast – they were deserved winners.

World Rugby doesn't always get it so right (the Black Ferns beat the All Blacks and England to the award), and while these awards, really just an excuse to indulge in mutual back-slapping and self-congratulation for the game's bigwigs, are ultimately meaningless, there will be debate over whether Beauden Barrett deserved his award as men's world player of the year for the second time.

All Blacks teammate Rieko Ioane, who won the breakthrough award, had good claims to the big prize too and will almost certainly win it at New Zealand Rugby's dinner next month, but arguments could have been made for Englishmen Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje, especially after their deeds with the British & Irish Lions. Wallabies wing Israel Folau was probably less deserving after ruling himself out of Australia's European tour this month.


Without taking away from Barrett's performances for the All Blacks this year – most of which have been very good – he was also put under enormous pressure by rushing defences (by the Crusaders against the Hurricanes and by the Lions against the All Blacks) and didn't always get it right. Adjustments were required in terms of his depth on attack and his goalkicking had its wobbles before coming right and that aspect of his game was a strength on the All Blacks' northern tour.

He remains the world's premier first-five. Was he as good as last year? Possibly not, but he was still very good and some of his skills are outrageous – his one-handed pick-up on retreat for the All Blacks against the Lions in the first test which had the large visiting press corps gasping springs to mind, but ultimately the series ended in disappointment for Barrett and the All Blacks.

The top male players in the tier one nations – the distinction is important – are already remunerated extremely well and get plenty of recognition, which is why the celebration of the Black Ferns feels so significant.

No player from a tier two nation has ever been nominated for the men's player of the year award, which has been held every year since 2001. And equally significantly, on the day the award was being held, the members of the Samoa team, who had played in front of a sold-out Twickenham the day before, were heading home.

The bankrupt Samoa Rugby Union were given a token £75,000 by the RFU, who otherwise kept 100 per cent of the gate takings. As eloquently written by former Manu Samoa player Daniel Leo in the Daily Mail, this has to change and change now.

Well done to all the winners at this year's awards, especially the New Zealanders Barrett, the Black Ferns, women's player of the year Portia Woodman, breakthrough player Rieko Ioane and women's sevens player of the year Michaela Blyde.

But it's time for World Rugby to recognise the tier two nations and in particular those from the Pacific Islands – Samoa, Fiji and Tonga – who have contributed so much to the game. It's time to do the right thing.