Stand up Johnny Sexton, World Rugby's player of the year, a victory not only for himself and Ireland but also World Rugby who might have breathed a sigh of relief that Owen Farrell, who has escaped sanction for two recent acts of foul play, hadn't won a nomination.

Instead, there was no awkwardness after the dessert plates were cleared away at what appeared to be a typically glittering World Rugby extravaganza in Monte Carlo, with Sexton chosen ahead of his fellow No 10 Beauden Barrett, halfback Faf de Klerk, hooker Malcolm Marx, and wing Rieko Ioane.

Awkwardness at such an event just wouldn't do, but note too that all nominees for the award were from Tier One nations as they always have been since the award started in 2001.


Interestingly, Tier One nation Italy, who have a guaranteed place at the top table despite being a basket-case performance-wise for many years, have now dropped to No 14 on World Rugby's rankings, with Fiji (10), Japan (11), Tonga (12) and the USA (13) all ranked above them.

There would have been platitudes as usual for the Tier Two nations and Polynesian countries in particular, but not official recognition at the top level for their players, not even Fiji lock Leone Nakarawa, one of the most skilful forwards in the world and one who played a starring role in his team's 21-14 victory over France in Paris at the weekend. Nakarawa, an offloading genius, was aptly described on social media afterwards as a "giant with the hands of a pianist".

Funnily enough, Nakarawa, who plays for Paris club Racing 92, beat Sexton and others to be awarded the European professional club rugby player of the year.

What a shame neither Nakarawa nor his fellow Tier Two colleagues and rivals get their own time in the spotlight at the big dance, but then I guess that's the way with World Rugby and the fact they hold the awards in a principality which has no other connection to the game and which goes to extreme measures to protect the wealth of its residents (no income tax) probably tells you all you need to know about the organisation.

But back to Sexton, and more particularly Farrell, the England first-five currently allowed to tackle any way he wants. No arms? No big deal!

Not only did he get away with a blatant shoulder-charge on South Africa's Andre Esterhuizen at Twickenham when a penalty could have cost his team the test, an act that was analysed and replayed over and over, he was at it again during England's win over Australia with a try-saving shoulder charge on Wallaby Izack Rodda which should have resulted in a penalty try. Both tackles could have earned a yellow card at least and yet there was nothing; not even a penalty.

England's Owen Farrell tackles South Africa's Andre Esterhuizen. Photo / Getty
England's Owen Farrell tackles South Africa's Andre Esterhuizen. Photo / Getty

As World Rugby reflect on a year in which they will no doubt be pleased that the Northern Hemisphere nations have taken the All Blacks down a peg or two and consider next year's World Cup in Japan, the first time it has been held in Asia, they may like to have a think about the way they have encouraged Farrell's tackling technique (and to condone it is to encourage it).

It's been said before but it's worth repeating. Unless World Rugby gets consistently tough on such acts, there is no point blathering on about how seriously it is taking head injuries and in particular concussions. Tackling like Farrell does is dangerous for the ball carrier but also the tackler.


World Rugby: Get serious and instruct your officials to do the same.