The RPA Players’ Awards in association with England Rugby, are the highlight of the domestic rugby union calendar, bringing together the biggest names in the sport to celebrate the achievements of the season and crown the 2016 Players’ Player of the Year.

Billy Vunipola has been voted England's Player of the Year.

The Red Rose No 8, who was controversially snubbed for Six Nations Player of the Championship despite three man-of-the-match awards in a five-game Grand Slam campaign, held off challenges from Chris Robshaw, James Haskell, George Kruis and Anthony Watson to top the poll.

After the Six Nations opening win over Scotland, Jones raved: "He can be the best No 8 in the world – there is no doubt about that. "I have read all about him being too slow to play No 8, so he is doing a pretty good job as a slow No 8!

“He was outstanding with his defence and his carrying. He is a big buy with footwork. He is a great reader of the game – he has got a good feel for the game. "He is still a young boy so imagine how good he is going to be."

Vunipola's fellow Saracens forward Maro Itoje, a Grand Slam winner in only his fourth England appearance, got the Young Player award.

Australian legend George Smith, who divided his season between playing for Wasps and helping coach England, picked up the RPA Players' Player of the Year gong.

Full award details

The Old Mutual Wealth England Player of the Year - Billy Vunipola

Billy Vunipola lit up the RBS 6 Nations by winning three Man of the Match awards from five games for his powerful ball carrying and hard, explosive charges from No 8.

Vunipola was a key member of England’s Grand Slam victory and has announced himself on the international stage as a world-class back row forward.

RPA Players' Player of the Year - George Smith

Australia legend George Smith joined Wasps at the start of the season and his contribution at open-side flanker has been immense.

His partnership in the back row with James Haskell and Nathan Hughes has helped Wasps become one of Europe’s top clubs. The 35 year-old has 111 Australia caps and played for clubs all around the world, which makes this award a special achievement for him.

“I’m an old man coming over here but I’ve really enjoyed the journey, it’s been fantastic,” said Smith.

“There is such a great bunch at Wasps and it’s great being involved with them. I really enjoy the contest, it’s been a great year for me. I didn’t think playing in the Premiership would be so much fun.”

RPA Blyth Spirit Award in association with Towergate Insurance - Henry Fraser 

Henry, brother of Saracens back-row Will Fraser, damaged his spinal cord during a holiday to Portugal in 2009, which left him paralysed from the neck down at the age of 17.

Since his accident Fraser has enjoyed great success as a motivational speaker, delivering his ‘Pushing Myself’ talk to a number of high profile businesses and sports teams, including Saracens and England Sevens.

“I'm absolutely honoured to receive this award," said Fraser. "To be selected to join a list with such amazing people on it, alongside Matt Hampson, someone who has constantly inspired me, is extremely overwhelming.”

RPA Special Merit Award - Charlie Hodgson

Charlie Hodgson has made himself an English rugby legend over the past decade with 38 England caps and 252 appearances in the Aviva Premiership making him the top points scorer in the history of the competition.

His commitment to the sport has made him one of England’s most respected fly-halves and this achievement is thoroughly deserved.

LV= Young player of the year - Maro Itoje

Maro Itoje exploded onto the Premiership season with outstanding performances for Saracens which earned him a player of the month award and an England squad place for the RBS 6 Nations that won their first Grand Slam for 13 years. The 21 year-old’s technical ability and athleticism has made him one of England’s hottest prospects for the future.

“I’ve still got a big three weeks to go and hopefully we can do what we want to do,” said Itoje.

“It’s not a one man game, it a team effort and all the performances are as a team. We are looking good, team morale is high and hopefully we can put in a shift at the weekend.”

HSBC England Sevens Player of the Year - Dan Bibby

Bibby has excelled on the HSBC World Sevens Series this year despite picking up a shoulder injury towards the tail end of the season.

He was part of the England squad that reached the Cup Final of the Dubai World Series event and he has represented England since 2014 and has his eyes firmly set on the Rio Olympics this Summer

The O2 England Women's Player of the year - Sarah Hunter

England Women turned around last year’s disappointing fourth place in the Six Nations to finish second this year.

Sarah Hunter has captained England to a new level and despite the disappointment of losing the Grand Slam in the final round against France, Hunter produced some outstanding performances. Her ball carrying and tackling set a bench mark for the rest of the competition and her determination to succeed promises more in the future.

The Nine Feet Tall Personal Development Programme Award - Rob Hawkins

Rob Hawkins has represented Bath Rugby, Leicester Tigers and more recently Newcastle Falcons. The 33 year-old hooker announced his retirement from professional rugby for the end of this season. Hawkins has dedicated his time outside of rugby training to become a full time police officer.

“Everyone knows rugby does not last forever and retirement creeps up on you so a huge thanks to the RPA for their support,” said Hawkins.

Greene King IPA Championship player of the year - Jack Lam 

Samoan international Lam has been inspiring for Bristol this season with his powerful work around the breakdown and intelligence in open play.

The 28 year-old flanker joined Bristol in 2014 from the Hurricanes and has excelled under the influence of former England Head Coach Andy Robinson at Bristol over the past two seasons

RPA Hall of Fame Induction in association with KPMG - Brian O'Driscoll

Brian O’Driscoll is not only an Ireland legend, but one of the most iconic stars in the history of the sport.

He is the second most capped international player of all time with 133 caps and he won three Champions Cup titles with Leinster, three RBS 6 Nations trophies including a Grand Slam in 2009 and won a British and Irish Lions series in 2013.

There are few players in world rugby who deserve a lifetime achievement more than O’Driscoll.

Full list of winners as well as the nominees for all the categories are as follows:

The RPA Players' Player of the Year in association with England Rugby

Winner: George Smith - Wasps


Andy Goode –         Newcastle Falcons

Nathan Hughes –    Wasps

Charles Piutau –       Wasps

Thomas Waldrom – Exeter Chiefs

LV= Young Player of the Year

Winner: Maro Itoje – Saracens


Jack Clifford –         Harlequins

Elliot Daly –             Wasps

Harry Mallinder –  Northampton Saints

Harry Thacker –      Leicester Tigers

The Old Mutual Wealth England Player of the Year

Winner: Billy Vunipola – Saracens


James Haskell –      Wasps

George Kruis –         Saracens

Chris Robshaw –     Harlequins

Anthony Watson –  Bath

HSBC England Sevens Player of the Year

Winner: Dan Bibby


Warwick Lahmert

Ruaridh McConnochie

The O2 England Women's Player of the Year

Winner Sarah Hunter


Emily Braund

Heather Fisher

The Greene King IPA Championship Player of the Year in association with England Rugby

Winner: Jack Lam – Bristol


Ryan Burrows – Yorkshire Carnegie

Jonah Holmes – Yorkshire Carnegie

Nine Feet Tall Personal Development Programme Award Winner:

Winner  Rob Hawkins – Newcastle Falcons


Tom Court –           London Irish

James Hudson –   Gloucester

Richard Thorpe – London Welsh

– Entry was posted on May 12th, 2016 by James Haskell

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