Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton has been crowned World Rugby Player of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony in Monte Carlo.
The 33-year-old playmaker fought off competition from South African duo Faf de Klerk and Malcom Marx, New Zealand wing Rieko Ioane and Beauden Barrett, who became the second man to scoop World Rugby’s top gong twice in a row when collecting the honour last year.
Sexton has enjoyed a stellar 2018 which began with the outside-half playing an integral role in his country’s Six Nations Grand Slam and most recently witnessed Ireland secure a memorable 16-9 triumph over the All Blacks in Dublin.
In between those highlights Sexton fired Leinster to a historic domestic and European double and spurred Ireland on to the memorable Test series victory in Australia over the summer.
Sexton didn’t speak after being presented with the award, but Ireland captain Rory Best read out a statement prepared by the out-half: “Apologies for my throat infection, laryngitis, lost my voice!
“Thank-you to my teammates and coaches. If a No.10 wins an award like this it is down to the team around him and the coaching he gets making his job easier.
“We have some of the best coaches in the world and are led superbly by Rory Best and Peter O’Mahony.”
Sexton becomes just the fifth northern hemisphere player to be crowned as World Rugby’s Player of the Year after fellow Six Nations greats Thierry Dusautoir, Shane Williams, Jonny Wilkinson and Keith Wood.
The fly-half also thanked his wife in his statement: “I’d also like to thank my wife Laura who has been with me since the start. We have three young kids and she does absolutely everything to allow me to concentrate on the day job.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have the season I have had without her.
“Thank you so much, it is an incredible honour. I look at the other nominees and admire all of them, any of them would be a worthy winner.”