France star Romain Ntamack finished off an amazing year by winning World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of 2019 award on Sunday.
Ntamack was selected ahead of South African scrum-half Herschel Jantjies who won the World Cup with the Springboks last night and England powerhouse winger Joe Cokanasiga.
The Toulouse star is still only 20 years old, having made his debut for Les Bleus back in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations opener against Wales.
But since that international bow, the youngster – whose father Emile has played for and coached Les Blues – has become a key cog in the France backline, both at No.12 and latterly at fly-half.
In between he also helped Toulouse re-claim the Top 14 crown and then caught the eye out in Japan.
France failed to advance past the quarter-final stage, but before Ntamack went off at half-time in that loss to Wales, Les Bleus were fast and free flowing in scoring three tries and playing some of the best rugby of the entire tournament.
Overall, he finished the calendar year for his country with 52 points in 12 Test caps, and looks set for a long and storied career in the blue jersey.
He will be one of the centre pieces for France’s four-year plan leading into their own World Cup in 2023.
And Bernard Laporte, who collected the award on Ntamack’s behalf on Sunday in Tokyo, is delighted with France’s latest discovery.
“I am very happy for him and for French rugby. It is a great honour for us. Thank you very much, he will be very happy when he takes this prize.
“Bravo to Romain, who has beaten off a young South African and an Englishman to win this award.
“He deserves it, he has shown a lot of maturity, and this is full reward for what he has achieved this season both with Toulouse and France.”