December 1 down the years
McCaw cements legendary status
Richie McCaw capped a remarkable 2010 with a third IRB Player of the Year award
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New Zealand captain Richie McCaw underlined his unrivalled position in the game by claiming his third International Rugby Board Player of the Year for 2010 award.
The flanker was the first player to claim a hat-trick of awards as he held off stiff competition for the Player of the Year Award with team-mate Mils Muliaina, South Africa's Victor Matfield, Imanol Harinordoquy from France and rising young Australia stars David Pocock and Kurtley Beale all performing superbly during the year. McCaw's leadership of the All Blacks, who claimed 13 wins from 14 matches during 2010, including a Tri-Nations title and an unbeaten end of year tour to Europe, along with some fierce individual performances sealed the award.
The accolade completed a hat-trick of IRB Awards for New Zealand, with the All Blacks named the IRB Team of the Year and Graham Henry unveiled as the IRB Coach of the Year for a record fourth time. Henry has previously been named IRB Coach of the Year in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and New Zealand are named IRB Team of the Year for the fourth time in six years.
England produced an astonishing performance to beat the All Blacks 38-21 at Twickenham in the biggest victory over the Kiwis in their Test history. Owen Farrell kicked England into a 15-0 lead before the All Blacks hit back with two tries in three second-half minutes from Julian Savea and Kieran Read. Twickenham sensed the worst. The All Blacks, who had not lost for 20 matches, had found their cutting edge and a third consecutive defeat to southern hemisphere opposition seemed in the offing. But England responded with a stunning three-try blitz from Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi and the records tumbled.
"The performance was exactly what we had hoped for," Lancaster said in the aftermath. "I'm chuffed for the players. When the tough times came we stayed together. That team belief with a young England side definitely augurs well for the future.
"At 15-14 we came back with three tries of our own. We've tried to instil a no-fear mentality in the players and to make them have the courage of their convictions. To build a 15-point lead was very pleasing. The All Blacks came back strong but our energy and our fight for the shirt was outstanding. That's what got us across the line. Our defence was outstanding. We forced the All Blacks into errors and not many sides do that."
England's World Cup-winning wing Jason Robinson bowed out of international rugby in the Barbarians' 22-5 victory over South Africa at Twickenham. Robinson received a standing ovation from the 58,000 inside England's HQ as he was replaced in the second-half. The game also marked a disappointing end to Jake White's tenure as Springbok coach, with his fringe players ending the World Cup-winning year on a low. Wales openside Martyn Williams was named as Man of the Match after a superb individual try while Wallabies Matt Giteau and Rocky Elsom also crossed the Boks' try-line. "It was a great atmosphere today and I thought it was a fantastic match," said Robinson. "The crowd were great. They will go home happy and I'll go home happy too. It was a great way to finish. I've had a wonderful career and I've gone from one good thing to another. Now I've finished on a high. We won the last game I've played in and I'll take some wonderful memories away with me. If I could have written a script it wouldn't have been as good as this. It's been fantastic.''
South Africa beat Wales 11-0 at Swansea in the first-ever international between the sides and become the only nation to win a Test on Welsh soil between 1899 and 1912. The Springboks were attempting a Grand Slam tour, but fell at the first hurdle with a defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield. Wales would have to wait 93 years for a victory over South Africa - at the newly unveiled Millennium Stadium in June 1999.
Jonathan Davies returned to the Wales side for the first time in eight years. Wales lost 28-19 to Australia for whom David Campese made his 101st, and final, Test appearance. Davies had been absent from the Welsh setup since 1988 after a switch to rugby league with Widnes. He won Test caps in the 13-man code for Great Britian and Wales before returning to union with Cardiff, winning five further Wales caps before his retirement.
The Canadian tourists put up a spirited performance before losing 8-0 to the Welsh Under 23s at Cardiff Arms Park in front of 25,000 spectators. Uncapped David Watkins at fly-half was a revelation for the Welsh.
Former Brisbane Broncos rugby league player Brad Thorn returned to rugby union after a self-imposed 12-month absence from the game. The 27-year-old quit Brisbane and league at the end of 2000 in favour of a move to union, and after playing a Super 12 season with the Crusaders, was set to make his All Blacks debut on their tour of Europe and Argentina. But just days after being selected for the tour by then coach John Mitchell, Thorn turned his back on New Zealand because he was unsure whether he wanted to remain in rugby or go back to league. After his decision Thorn became only the second man to represent New Zealand in union and Australia in league with his All Black debut in 2003. In 2005 he again returned to league with the Broncos, switching codes back to union with Tasman and resuming his All Black career in 2007.
Fullback Sam Doble, with a volley of second-half penalty goals, fired Moseley to a 25-12 win against Northampton in a tie in the RFU's new knockout Cup competition.
Reigning county champions Lancashire saw off old rivals Yorkshire 16-8 at Fylde to qualify as the Northern Group's representatives in the County Championship quarter-finals.
A young and then uncapped Serge Blanco was the scourge of the Welsh at Bourg-en-Bresse where his smooth running inspired France B to a 33-12 win against Wales B.