Rugby: Daniel Carter, All Blacks, Steve Hansen Winners at 2012 IRB Awards

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Rugby: Daniel Carter, All Blacks, Steve Hansen Winners at 2012 IRB Awards
David Rogers/Getty Images

It was a good night for New Zealand at the 2012 IRB Awards, claiming all the top awards on the back of a stellar year. Daniel Carter, the All Blacks and Steve Hansen all walked away with silverware, claiming Player of the Year, Team of the Year and Coach of the Year awards respectively.

That the All Blacks won Team of the Year comes as little surprise. Boasting a record of 12 wins, one loss and one draw for the year, they were by far and away the dominant team. Only a shock loss by what looked a tired team at the end of a long season on Saturday prevented them completing their first unbeaten season since 1997.

Even so, they put forth an impressive resume, with two wins over each of South Africa, Australia and Argentina, whilst also claiming the scalps of Wales, Scotland, Italy and Ireland. There really is no argument against them, such has been their dominance.

That Steve Hansen won Coach of the Year was also little surprise, after guiding to the All Blacks to this impressive record in his first season in charge of the side.

But Daniel Carter winning Player of the Year is a different story. Sure he was good. Very good in fact. Was he really the best player in the world in 2012 though? 

Questions were asked when it was announced the short list for the award included England rookie Owen Farrell. There seemed no logic whatsoever to explain his inclusion, particularly when both Kieran Read and Conrad Smith were missing.

Both Read and Smith would have made good cases to take the award home. As it was though, neither would have the opportunity so New Zealand's chances came down to inspirational captain Richie McCaw and master class first five-eighth Dan Carter.

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McCaw seemed the logical choice here. Having carried the team at times he was simply sensational, and a large reason for the All Blacks' dominance. His physicality was immense and his ability to cover up for others' mistakes bailed them out on multiple occasions.

Carter meanwhile was good, but perhaps wasn't quite as influential as McCaw. The team coped without him when he was sidelined with an injury, beating Argentina and South Africa in consecutive weeks. Whilst he was missed, the games were still won. Had McCaw been absent it must be questioned whether they would have been, particularly the Springbok game where he virtually won the game by himself.

That McCaw is a three-time winner of the award shouldn't come into consideration, but it is hard not to feel that there may have been an inclination to look to someone else. 

It's not that he didn't have a good season. There were plenty of memorable moments including dominant performances against the Springboks and Pumas away from home in respective weeks, as well as a last-gasp drop goal to beat Ireland in the second test in June.

Certainly he would have ranked in the top five players in the world. Not the best though after the dominant seasons had by McCaw, Read and Smith.

2012 marks the second time Carter wins the award, having also been named the best player in the world in 2005. This makes him only the second player after McCaw to win the award multiple times.

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