It is a measure of Josh van der Flier's late blooming to becoming an integral part of both the Leinster and Ireland teams this season that the 29-year-old flanker was on Wednesday night named as the men's XVs Players' Player of the Year by his fellow players at the 2022 Rugby Players Ireland awards in Dublin.
Since unveiling the remodelled van der Flier when scoring Leinster's first try of this campaign in their seasonal opener against the Bulls with a pacey finish from outside the 22, the open side's improved ball carrying has augmented his voracious work rate and specifically his high tackle counts.
An ever present in Leinster's Champions Cup games, he has scored six tries in those seven outings, and scored another four as an ever present in eight Tests for Ireland, playing every minute of the Six Nations campaign. He was chosen from a shortlist containing Caelan Doris, Mack Hansen and Hugo Keenan.
On receiving his award van der Flier commented: “I have many great memories from what has been a special year for me, on both a personal and professional level. To be acknowledged by my teammates and opponents in this way is particularly humbling. A special word of thanks to my fiancé and family who continue to help guide me through.”
The Women's Players' Player of the Year 2022 - as voted by members of the Ireland squad - was presented to Sam Monaghan following several prominent performances this season. The Irish lock and offloaidng queen prevailed over Linda Djougang and Eve Higgins who took home both the Women's XVs Young Player of the Year and the Women's XVs Try of the Year award, but was beaten to the Women's Sevens Player of the Year gong by the free-scoring Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.
Monaghan said: “This team has been through a tremendous amount this year, we always keep fighting. The bravery these players have shown, past and present, on and off the pitch, is captivating. To be voted by them for this award is an extreme honour and we will continue to fight to put the green jersey in a better place for the next generation.”
Many of the biggest names in the Irish game were present at the Clayton Hotel on the Burlington Road. Hansen accepted the Moment of the Year Award on behalf of his Irish teammates on account of their Triple Crown success. Despite also having two efforts in the mix for the Men's XVs Try of the Year, Hansen lost out to Doris for his try against New Zealand.
Other award winners on the night included Terry Kennedy, who was named as the Men's Sevens Player of the Year for a second consecutive season. Andrew Porter's work in the community was also recognised in his Contribution to Irish Society Award, while Cian Prendergast was presented with the Nevin Spence Men's Young Player of the Year Award. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Spence's passing.
Men's XV Players' Player of the Year
Caelan Doris - Leinster
Mack Hansen - Connacht
Hugo Keenan - Leinster
Josh van der Flier - Leinster (winner)
Women's XV Players' Player of the Year
Linda Djougang - ASM Romagnat
Eve Higgins - Railway Union
Sam Monaghan - Wasps Women's (winner)
Nevin Spence Men's XV Young Player of the Year
Michael Lowry - Ulster
Cian Prendergast - Connacht (winner)
Dan Sheehan - Leinster
Women's XV Young Player of the Year
Eve Higgins - Railway Union (winner)
Neve Jones - Gloucester Hartpury
Aoibheann Reilly - Blackrock College
Men's XV Try of the Year
Caelan Doris - Ireland v New Zealand, Autumn Nations Cup (winner)
Mack Hansen - Connacht v Bulls, United Rugby Championship
Mack Hansen - France v Ireland, Six Nations
Women's XV Try of the Year
Eve Higgins - France v Ireland, Women's Six Nations (winner)
Eve Higgins - Ireland v Italy, Women's Six Nations
Lindsay Peat - Ireland v USA, Autumn International
Men's Sevens Player of the Year
Terry Kennedy (winner)
Women's Sevens Player of the Year
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (winner)