Daniel Carter has been named World Rugby Player of the Year 2015 in association with MasterCard during a star-studded World Rugby Awards ceremony at Battersea Evolution in London on Sunday.
Fly-half Carter joins his All Blacks captain Richie McCaw as a three-time recipient of the prestigious accolade, having also been named Player of the Year in 2005 and 2012, and follows in the footsteps of other previous winners such as Thierry Dusautoir, Bryan Habana and Jonny Wilkinson.
New Zealand were named World Rugby Team of the Year after becoming the first nation to successfully defend the Webb Ellis Cup with a 34-17 defeat of Australia in the Rugby World Cup 2015 final on Saturday.
Australia coach Michael Cheika received the World Rugby Coach of the Year accolade after transforming the Wallabies in his 12 months at the helm, guiding them to The Rugby Championship title and the RWC 2015 final.
Carter was named man of the match in the final after steering the All Blacks to victory, kicking 19 points including a drop goal and long-range penalty to halt the Australian fight-back. The all-time leading point scorer in international rugby with 1,598 points to his name in 112 tests, Carter has been back to his best in recent weeks, inspired by the chance to play in a first Rugby World Cup final.
He received the award ahead of five other nominees – All Blacks team-mate Julian Savea, Australia flanker Michael Hooper and number eight David Pocock, Wales second-row Alun Wyn Jones and Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw.
Carter said: "It's a dream come true. It's not why you play the game, for personal accolades, but at the same time it's very pleasing and a very proud moment because I've had to work extremely hard, especially these last two to three years with the injuries that I've had. To come out fighting on the other side and achieve what I've achieved personally, but also what the team has achieved, it has been a very special moment of my career."
The winners were selected by the Awards' independent panel of judges, chaired by Rugby World Cup 1999-winning captain John Eales and made up of former internationals, media and the RWC 2015 participating teams. The panel deliberated on every major test match played this year, starting with the first Six Nations match and finishing with the Rugby World Cup 2015 final.
The Awards at Battersea Evolution were a fitting finale to what World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset described as "the best-ever Rugby World Cup" and was attended by all four semi-final teams and stars from sport and entertainment.
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "The World Rugby Awards are a fitting finale to an exceptional year for rugby on and off the field. On the back of the best-ever Rugby World Cup, we saw deserved accolades to those who starred in full and vibrant stadia over the past six weeks, while celebrating those who tireless and selfless efforts ensure that our sport enjoys the global success it does from the playground to the podium. Congratulations to all our recipients."
WORLD RUGBY WOMEN'S PLAYER OF THE YEAR – KENDRA COCKSEDGE, NEW ZEALAND
An influential member of the Black Ferns side, both for her prowess as a goal-kicker and the way she unleashes the talented New Zealand backline. A Women's Rugby World Cup winner, the 27-year-old was an integral part of New Zealand's success at the Women's Rugby Super Series, producing a kicking masterclass as her side beat world champions England along with USA and their hosts Canada to claim the inaugural title.
Nominees: Sophie Spence (Ireland), Gaëlle Mignot (France)
WORLD RUGBY BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR – NEHE MILNER-SKUDDER, NEW ZEALAND
Nehe Milner-Skudder becomes the inaugural recipient of this award after a remarkable year that has seen him make his Super Rugby debut, score twice on his All Blacks debut against Australia and cross the line six times in as many matches at Rugby World Cup 2015. Blessed with pace and quick feet, Milner-Skudder scored New Zealand's opening try in the final at Twickenham.
Nominees: Vasil Lobzhanidze (Georgia), Mark Bennett (Scotland)
WORLD RUGBY SEVENS PLAYER OF THE YEAR IN ASSOCIATION WITH HSBC – WERNER KOK, SOUTH AFRICA
In only his second full season Werner Kok was instrumental in South Africa's performances in all nine rounds of the 2014-15 series, most notably in their Cup win on home soil in Port Elizabeth, and as the Blitzboks became the first to side to confirm qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games. He ended the season as the series' leading tackler.
Nominees: Seabelo Senatla (South Africa), Semi Kunatani (Fiji)
WORLD RUGBY WOMEN'S SEVENS PLAYER OF THE YEAR – PORTIA WOODMAN, NEW ZEALAND
Portia Woodman continued to break records in the 2014-15 World Rugby Women's Sevens Series, scoring 14 tries in the USA round alone. She finished the season with an incredible 52 tries in the series, the first woman and only fifth player in Sevens World Series history to pass a half century. A lethal finisher, her partnership with another former netballer in Kayla McAlister was at times simply too hot for opponents to handle.
Nominees: Sarah Goss (New Zealand), Charlotte Caslick (Australia), Nadezda Kudinova (Russia)
WORLD RUGBY REFEREE AWARD – NIGEL OWENS
Nigel Owens became the seventh referee, and second Welshman, to take charge of a Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday. A veteran of three Rugby World Cups and 68 test matches, the 44-year-old is the most experienced member of the current referee panel.
Nominees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Alhambra Nievas (Spain)
AWARD FOR CHARACTER IN ASSOCIATION WITH LAND ROVER – PAKISTAN RUGBY UNION
Pakistan's rugby community came together in a show of solidarity on 1 February, 2015 when a PRU domestic championship match took place in Peshawar between Khyber PakhtunKwa (KPK) and the Federal Administrated Tribal Agency (FATA), only two months after the terrorist attacks on the Army Public School killed more than 150 people, many of them children. FATA won the match 15-0 but the match was secondary to the message the teams, match officials and rugby community sent out that day in a country where the sport continues to grow.
VERNON PUGH AWARD FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE – NIGEL STARMER-SMITH
A former scrum-half who won seven caps for England from 1969-71, he forged a career in rugby journalism after his retirement and become one of the game's most recognisable names and voices. A former Rugby Special presenter, it was in more than three decades as a commentator provided his greatest contribution, including more than 10 years on the World Rugby Sevens Series.
RUGBY WORLD CUP BEST MATCH MOMENT – JAPAN (V SOUTH AFRICA, RWC 2015)
With more than five million people engaged by this new award, a partnership between World Rugby and Facebook, the winner was Japan's shock victory over former champions South Africa on the opening weekend, Karne Hesketh's try securing a 34-32 win for the Brave Blossoms.
Shortlist: Jonah Lomu (v England, RWC 1995), France (v New Zealand, RWC 1999), Jonny Wilkinson (v Australia, RWC 2003)
IRPA TRY OF THE YEAR – JULIAN SAVEA (SECOND TRY V FRANCE, RWC 2015)
The New Zealand winger showed brute strength to bounce off three French defenders and touch down in the left corner for a try that Jonah Lomu would have been proud of, one that would not have been possible had Ben Smith not been so commanding under the high ball that created the opportunity for Savea to barge his way over.
Nominees: Vincent Debaty (France), Fetu'u Vainikolo (Tonga), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Ayumu Goromaru (Japan), Julian Savea (New Zealand)
IRPA SPECIAL MERIT AWARD – BRIAN O'DRISCOLL AND NATHAN SHARPE
Two former test captains who each represented their country more than 100 times in Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll and Nathan Sharpe of Australia. O'Driscoll played 141 tests from 1999-2014, leaving a huge hole in the Ireland midfield when he retired as the most-capped player in test history. Sharpe was a Rugby World Cup runner-up in 2003, just a decade after making his debut and he bowed out a decade later with 116 caps to his name.