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Fiji’s Jerry Tuwai and NZ’s Ruby Tui named World Rugby Sevens Players of the Year

Source: World Rugby; New Zealand Rugby

PC: Matt Roberts – World Rugby via Getty Images

Fiji’s Jerry Tuwai and New Zealand’s Ruby Tui have been named World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Sevens Player of the Year 2019 respectively at the World Rugby Awards in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday.

Fijian playmaker Jerry Tuwai was nominated for the third year running after once again carving open defences at will with his vision and step, making the most of his diminutive frame to dart through gaps to create opportunities for himself or those around him. “He may no longer have the captain’s armband but he is still the heartbeat of the Fijian side, helping them win titles in Cape Town, Hamilton, Hong Kong, London and Paris and a third series title for himself,” said World Rugby. The 30-year-old also featured in the HSBC Dream Team for the third year in a row.

Tuwai humbly acknowledged his team upon receiving the award. “I thank God for this. I’m just accepting this award on behalf of my boys. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be standing here today.”

He also expressed his gratitude and acknowledged his fellow nominees. “Blessings to [Stephen] Tomasin and Folau [Niua] for their rugby careers.”

“This means the world to me, to my family and Fiji. It’s been a long journey, very hard journey for me… because you can see, I think I’m the smallest player in the World Series,” Tuwai quipped.

Looking ahead for his team, Tuwai commented, “Now our focus is on Dubai and Cape Town.”

27-year-old Ruby Tui, of Irish/Scottish and Samoan descent, was lauded by World Rugby for her powerful running and tireless work at the breakdown. “Ruby Tui is one of the first names down on coach Allan Bunting’s team sheet and someone who never gives less than 100 per cent for the Black Ferns Sevens’ cause.” The 27-year-old was named in the HSBC Dream Team for the 2019 series, having started every match and scored 15 tries in their title-winning season.

Upon receiving her award, Tui first acknowledged her fellow nominees, New Zealanders Sarah Hirini and Tyla Nathan-Wong. “Individual awards for me are a bit weird, because we all know rugby’s a team sport… This is for everyone.”

Reflecting on the Black Ferns Sevens championship victory in San Francisco last year, Tui acknowledged the growth of women’s Sevens. “Whether you like women’s rugby or not, you need us, because it’s growing at an insane rate… 2020 Tokyo will be an absolute spectacle.”

PC: Matt Roberts – World Rugby via Getty Images

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew yesterday congratulated Tui on her award. “She can be very proud of her efforts in striving for excellence; her leadership both on and off the field make her a key figure in the team.  I know that her fellow nominees, Tyla Nathan-Wong and skipper Sarah Hirini, would be equally thrilled for her,” he said.

Meanwhile Manu Samoa legend Papali’itele Peter Fatialofa was posthumously inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. Papali’itele, who captained Samoa into the quarter-finals in their Rugby World Cup debut in 1991, was among six legends recognised for their “outstanding contribution to the game of rugby throughout their careers, while also demonstrating rugby’s character-building values of integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect”.

Papali’itele’s wife, Anne, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband, affectionately known in the community as ‘Fats’.

South Africa’s Pieter-Steph du Toit was named World rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year 2019, ahead of five other nominees including All Black Ardie Savea and USA hooker Joe Taufete’e. Emily Scarrat of England was named the World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year.

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