Friday, December 16, 2011

All Blacks and Crusaders nominated for Laureus Awards

Source: All Blacks

The All Blacks and the Crusaders have been nominated for Team and Comeback of the Year respectively, while the Investec Super Rugby championship winning Reds are also nominated in the most esteemed awards in any sport.

If previous history is any indication, then the All Blacks will win the greatest team sporting award on the planet – as England and South Africa both claimed the prize after winning their respective World Cups in 2003 and 2007 (for the 2004 and 2008 awards, the upcoming 2012 awards are for the 2011 season).

The All Blacks ended a 20-year losing drought in World Cups on October 23 when they defeated France 8-7 in the closest final in tournament history.

Classed previously as one of sport’s greatest streaks in some quarters, the All Blacks fell short in five consecutive World Cups, despite by and large entering the quadrennial tournament as favourites and dominating in between ‘Cup cycles’.

The historic victory came despite the All Blacks losing key player Dan Carter (and then his replacements Colin Slade and Aaron Cruden went down), with fourth choice first-five eighth Stephen Donald kicking the winning penalty.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who was not selected in the sportsman of the year catagory, played throughout the tournament with an injured foot, yet he defied the limits of normal human pain and led his troops to glory.

In 2006, 2007 and 2011 the All Blacks were nominated.

In 2005 the team won 11 of 12 test matches including a 3-0 British and Irish Lions sweep, the Investec Tri Nations, the Bledisloe Cup and a Grand Slam – but lost to the Renault Formula One team.

In 2006 the All Blacks were even more impressive, winning 12 of 13 tests.

They only lost to South Africa in Rustenburg by one point to tarnish an otherwise perfect season, scoring at least 20 points in all but one test match, and cutting a mighty swath through Europe with a 41-20 win over England, 47-3 victory over France, and a sign off 45-10 triumph over Wales – but it was FIFA World Cup champions Italy that won that season.

In 2010 the All Blacks responded to a 0-3 loss to the Springboks the year before to win 13 of 14 test matches for the season, most notably recording the most dominant clean sweep of the Investec Tri Nations in history – however the Laureus judges again went for a World Champion, picking the Spanish football team.

Up against the All Blacks in the Team category are European Champions League winners Barcelona, NBA winners Dallas Mavericks, world No 1 cricket team England, Japan women's football team and the constructor winning Red Bull Formula One team.

The nomadic Crusaders have been shortlisted for the Comeback of the Year after reaching the Super Rugby final despite playing all of their matches away from home.

The city of Christchurch was hit by a devastating earthquake that killed 181 people and rendered their home ground of AMI Stadium unplayable (which also ruled out their World Cup hosting) sending the Crusaders on a 100,000 plus journey.

They reached the final, and eventually lost 18-13 to Queensland.

The Reds were nominated as they were also hit by a natural disaster, with the chaos caused by the Brisbane floods still visible in parts of the city nearly 12 months on.

The winners, as voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy, will be unveiled in London on February 6.

The full list of nominees can be viewed here.


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