Perry Baker of the USA has been named the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year.
World Rugby made the announcement as part of the World Rugby Awards in Monte Carlo on Sunday.
The ceremony was dominated by New Zealand, as Beauden Barrett and Portia Woodman were named the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Players of the Year and Michaela Blyde won the Women's Sevens Player of the Year. In addition, every award went to a Tier I player or team except the men's sevens award, which went to the Florida native Baker.
The oldest of the nominees at 31, Baker enjoyed a season to remember in 2016-17, topping the charts for tries and points scored on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with 57 and 285, respectively.
He tallied most of the offensive stats for the World Series, and thanks to his electric pace and a defense, the USA finished fifth in the standings, its highest-ever placing in the competition.
Other nominees were Rosko Specman (South Africa) and Jerry Tuwai (Fiji).
Barrett becomes only the second player to win the prestigious Men's Player of the Year award two years in a row, matching the achievement of his former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw from 2009-10.
Barrett received the award ahead of four other nominees in All Blacks teammate Rieko Ioane, England and British Lions duo Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje, and Australia fullback Israel Folau.
“I’m very proud and surprised," Barrett said. "I wanted to be better than last year, and I still think I have plenty more to go. The Lions series put us under the most pressure I have probably felt in a black jersey and that’s a credit to the Lions. We learnt a lot from that series, particularly taking that into the World Cup. When I hang the boots up, that’s when I can look back and be really proud of this. I’ve got to thank my team. I am just one player amongst a great team.”
A New Zealand winger, Woodman was named the World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year after helping the Black Ferns win a fifth Women’s Rugby World Cup title in Ireland in August.
FloRugby Interviews USA Sevens Star Perry Baker:
She received the award ahead of four other nominees in Black Ferns teammate Kelly Brazier, England winger Lydia Thompson, and France back-row duo Romane Menager and Safi N’Diaye.
“Obviously just winning the team of the year award shows just how good our team is, and they make me look good," Woodman said. "They do all the work and I am out there on the sideline just waiting for the ball. My mum wasn’t a big fan of me playing rugby, but I think she was going to support me no matter what. And, without [my parents], I obviously wouldn’t be where I am because they pushed me to do everything I can to the best of my ability.”
The award winners were selected by an independent panel, which voted on every match from the Six Nations through to the start of the November internationals. For more details on the respective awards panels, visit here.
Full list of World Rugby Awards winners
Men’s Player of the Year — Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Women’s Player of the Year — Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
Team of the Year — New Zealand Women’s 15s
Coach of the Year — Eddie Jones (England)
Breakthrough Player of the Year — Rieko Ioane (New Zealand)
Men’s Sevens Player of the Year — Perry Baker (USA)
Women’s Sevens Player of the Year — Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
Referee Award — Joy Neville (Ireland)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service — Marcel Martin (France)
Award for Character — Eduardo Oderigo (Argentina)
IRPA Special Merit Award — Richie McCaw (New Zealand) and Rachael Burford (England)
IRPA Try of the Year — Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina, v England)
— A World Rugby press release contributed to this report