Three Lions nominated for World Rugby Awards 2021

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Lions trio World Rugby Awards

Three British & Irish Lions players have been nominated for gongs at the World Rugby Awards 2021.

2021 tourists Maro Itoje, Marcus Smith and Louis Rees-Zammit are all in contention for awards after the shortlists selected by a star-studded panel were revealed on Monday.

Two-time tourist Itoje is up for the prestigious World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year award, having previously been nominated for the honour in 2016 and 2017.

The story of the 2021 Tour

The 27-year-old was named Vodafone Player of the Series for the Lions after starting all three Tests for Warren Gatland’s men as they took on the Springboks in the summer.

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Itoje was colossal throughout the series against the reigning world champions, winning turnovers for fun despite the tourists eventually going down 2-1 in South Africa.

Alun Wyn Jones after the game with Maro Itoje

He is up against Australian captain Michael Hooper – who became his country’s most-capped captain in September – fellow Wallaby Samu Kerevi and France scrum-half Antoine Dupont.

The decision of who takes the prize is now down to the fans, who will be able to select their winner for the World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year award on the Awards’ voting website.

Elsewhere, Smith and Rees-Zammit are both up for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award, which will be decided by the World Rugby Awards panel.

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Rees-Zammit became the youngest British & Irish Lion player for more than 50 years after impressing for Wales as they won the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship.

And the Wales winger took all of three minutes to touch down for the first time on his Lions debut, scoring the opening try in the 56-14 win against the Sigma Lions.

Another try came against Cell C Sharks before he crossed for his third against DHL Stormers in the final match before the Test series, as he again underlined his potential.

Louis Rees-Zammit

Meanwhile, 22-year-old England and Harlequins fly-half Smith also enjoyed a season to remember as he earned a sensational late call-up from the Lions for the Tour to South Africa.

He got the chance to wear the famous red jersey for the first time having only made his senior debut appearance for England against the USA a week before finding out about his selection.

Smith was the top points-scorer in the 2020/21 Premiership season with 286, nearly 100 more than anyone else, and played a starring role as Quins beat Exeter 40-38 to stunningly become champions.

Since making his England and Lions debut – scoring 14 points for the tourists as they beat the DHL Stormers 49-3 – Smith has looked like a veteran in the No.10 jersey.

Rees-Zammit and Smith face stiff competition for the award, with New Zealand winger Will Jordan and Andrew Kellaway of Australia also nominated for the honour.

Jordan is the second-fastest All Black to 15 Test tries while Kellaway is closing in on the Australian record for most tries in a debut season with eight in 12 Tests in 2021.

Placed at the end of the November international window, the biggest accolades in rugby union will be virtually handed to their recipients from 6-10 December.

Marcus Smith

The 12 category winners will be unveiled on World Rugby social media channels including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (@WorldRugby).

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Awards are the ultimate accolade for rugby, and we are delighted to honour the outstanding players and individuals who have made an impact on our game on and off the field in 2021.

“The pandemic and its consequences have restricted several unions from playing international games this year and we recognise that not all rugby stars have had a chance to shine.

“Nevertheless, the World Rugby Awards Panel has done an amazing job in selecting suitable candidates in each category and I would like to congratulate all nominees who, deservingly, have been shortlisted for this year’s awards.”

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