Ntamack and Cokanasiga nominated for breakthrough player of the year

Joe Cokanasiga and Romain Ntamack have both been nominated for World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year 2019 award.

Joe Cokanasiga and Romain Ntamack have both been nominated for World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year 2019 award.

South Africa scrum-half Herschel Jantjies rounds out the trio of nominees for players who have played less than one year of senior international rugby.

England winger Cokanasiga burst onto the scene last November with tries against Japan and Australia and then in this year’s Guinness Six Nations put together an incredible individual performance against Italy.

Overall, the giant winger has seven tries in nine Test appearances including a double out here in Japan in England’s pool stage victory over the USA in Kobe.

Ntamack made his international bow at the start of the year in the centres for his side’s Championship opener against Wales.

But since then he has won 12 Test caps and made the fly-half berth his own, starting at No.10 three times out here in Japan including their narrow quarter-final loss to Wales.

Should either Cokanasiga or Ntamack win they would follow Maro Itoje who in 2016 became the first northern hemisphere player to win the award.

But standing in their way is diminutive Springbok scrum-half Jantjies who burst onto the scene this year.

The Stormers No.9 scored twice on his Test debut against Australia in the Rugby Championship in July and then touched down again in the 16-16 draw with New Zealand.

The 23-year-old has featured in all but one of South Africa’s =Ttests since, more often than not providing an impact off the bench.

“The World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award recognises the most exciting talent to burst onto the international 15s or sevens stage during the year and highlights the ‘ones to watch’,” said World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.

“There were several outstanding candidates and the process of selecting the shortlist was tough for the panel. We have three outstanding candidates, who would be worthy recipients of this prestigious award.”

Former internationals Jamie Heaslip, Felipe Contepomi and Rugby World Cup winners Fiao’o Faamausili and Bryan Habana were on the panel that selects the shortlist.

Former World Rugby Player of the Year and 2007 World Cup winner Habana added: “With a number of players bursting onto the international scene over the past year, it was no easy feat choosing only three nominees for the Breakthrough Player of the Year award but the nominees selected have shown their pedigree on the biggest stage and in so doing are fully deserving of their nomination.”

Previous winners

2018 – Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa) 2017 – Rieko Ioane (New Zealand) 2016 – Maro Itoje (England) 2015 – Nehe Milner-Skudder (New Zealand)