Tuesday 23 January 2018

McCaw favourite to retain IRB's top player award

Brendan Gallagher

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, who has already won the award twice before, is the favourite again to win the IRB Player of the Year award next week after the announcement of a shortlist of six nominees.

Fellow All Black Mils Muliaina, who with McCaw broke the All Blacks' Test appearance record in Dublin last week, has also been shortlisted along with Australia's David Pocock and Kurtley Beale, Imanol Harinordoquy of France and South African lock Victor Matfield -- another past winner -- who broke the Springboks record of Test caps this autumn. Last year, Brian O'Driscoll missed out on the award by a solitary point to the New Zealand captain.

Elsewhere, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) have confirmed they intend to build their own 80,000-capacity national rugby stadium with a retractable roof, in the style of the Millennium Stadium in Wales, and that they hope to be in their new home by 2017.

Possible sites at Massy, Senart, Bondoufle and Marne-la-Vallee on the outskirts of Paris have already been earmarked and the FFR, with former France captain Serge Blanco heading the project, have put aside the next seven months to prepare detailed plans for each location to be considered.

The cost of such a stadium will not be less than E600m, but French rugby has never entirely taken to the Stade de France, which was built for the 1998 Football World Cup. On the field, it has never become the fortress home venue that the Parc des Princes was and off the field, as "tenants", the FFR have always had to pay half of all receipts from matches to the owners. "Rugby and the federation are a company and if it wants to grow, it needs to be independent -- we want to build and own our own stadium," said Pierre Camou, president of the FFR. The last straw came this May when the FFR had to rearrange its prestigious T14 French championship final to accommodate a Johnny Hallyday concert.

Meanwhile, former France out-half Frederic Michalak is to make his comeback from a second career-threatening knee injury when he starts on the bench for Toulouse against Agen this weekend. Michalak damaged the anterior cruciate ligaments of his left knee against Stade Francais in March.

Irish Independent

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