PARIS – Ireland's Johnny Sexton was named world player of the year on Sunday for leading his nation to the Six Nations Grand Slam.
Sexton beat All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett -- the winner for the last two years -- South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk, New Zealand try machine Rieko Ioane and Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx.
The 33-year-old Leinster fly-half is only the second Irish player to win the award after hooker Keith Wood in 2001.
It was an Irish triple at the ceremony in Monaco as Ireland were named team of the year and Joe Schmidt won coach of the year.
Jessy Tremouliere became the first French winner of the women's player of the year award having helped Les Bleues win the Six Nations Grand Slam.
With Sexton at their heart, Ireland only lost once all year, to Australia in June, and bagged a memorable Grand Slam against England on St Patrick's Day at Twickenham.
They also beat the All Blacks on Irish soil for the first time with a 16-9 win on November 17.
Sexton lost his voice so Ireland teammate Rory Best had to read out his acceptance speech, saying: "If a No.10 wins an award like this, it is due to the team around him and his coaches making his job easier.
A speechless Johnny Sexton gets a helping hand from Rory Best as he receives the World Rugby Men's 15s Player of the Year 2018 Award in Association with Mastercard #WorldRugbyAwards pic.twitter.com/yveN4gROHh— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) November 25, 2018
"We have some of the best coaches in the world and are led superbly by Rory Best."
New Zealander Schmidt is expected to announce by the end of this month whether he will remain in charge beyond next year's World Cup in Japan.
But first he will aim to guide the Irish to the last four of the global showpiece for the first time.
All the winners on the night were:
World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year – Winner - Johnny Sexton (Ireland).
World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year – Winner - Jessy Tremouliere (France).
World Rugby Team of the Year – Winner - Ireland
World Rugby Coach of the Year – Winner - Joe Schmidt (Ireland)
World Rugby Referee Award – Winner - Angus Gardner
Try of the Year – Winner - Brodie Retallick (All Blacks)
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year - Winner - Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year - Winner - Perry Baker (USA)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year - Winner - Michaela Blyde (Black Ferns Sevens)
IRPA Special Merit Award – Winners: DJ Forbes (NZ), Stephen Moore (Australia)
Spirit of Rugby Award - Winner - Jamie Armstrong
Award for Character - Winner - Doddie Weir - Former Scotland international
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – Winner - Yoshirō Mori - President of the Japan Rugby Union.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)