Dusautoir a leader on and off the field
AUCKLAND, 22 Oct. - Thierry Dusautoir, who has captained France to Sunday's Rugby World Cup Final and is the only northern hemisphere player among the six nominees for the IRB Player of the Year 2011 award, is a man for whom the accolade of "role model" could have been invented.
The unassuming Dusautoir, one of rugby's most prodigious tacklers, undoubtedly deserves his nomination for the prestigious IRB award, both for his talent as a player and for his behaviour on and off the pitch.
Dusautoir, though, does not seem to pay a great deal of attention to his latest honour; chasing awards is clearly not one of his priorities. But Imanol Harinordoquy, the veteran France number 8, is more than happy to speak on behalf of his reticent friend and teammate.
“He is a great player, a role model," says Harinordoquy. "While he does not speak very much, he knows what he wants and shows it on the pitch, both during matches and training sessions.”
As well as being a leader on and off the field, Dusautoir has maintained his composure during France's RWC 2011 campaign, which, although highly successful, has also been decidedly erratic, with Les Bleus making it to the final despite two defeats in pool play and frequent reports of behind-the-scenes problems.
At one stage, after France's shock pool loss to Tonga, coach Marc Lièvremont took it upon himself to go public with his unequivocal support for his captain. “I would like to address a message to Thierry Dusautoir," said Lièvremont.
"He is the only one showing the right spirit currently. He spends a lot of energy to mobilise his team. Even though he is very much criticised, he should just focus on his performance.”
Dusautoir, who has captained France in 25 of his 48 international appearances, took the criticism very much in his stride. “Nobody should care about my feelings," he said. "What matters most is the team’s performance.”
The Ivory Coast-born back row, who turns 30 next month, has always put the team first and led from the front - as New Zealand, France's opponents in Sunday's final, know to their cost.
Dusautoir was a pivotal figure for France in their quarter-final victory over the tournament favourites at RWC 2007, one of the most painful defeats in All Blacks history.
Dusautoir scored the first of France's two tries in that match as Les Bleus stormed back from 13-0 behind to beat New Zealand 20-18. He also made a remarkable 38 of France's 178 tackles - two more than the All Blacks' total tackle count of 36.
Dusautoir also captained France to a famous 27-22 victory over the All Blacks at Dunedin in June 2009.
His impressive list of achievements includes captaining France to their 2010 Six Nations Grand Slam, winning the Heineken Cup with Toulouse in the 2009-10 season and four French championships, with Biarritz and Toulouse.
The IRB Player of the Year awards ceremony will be held at Auckland's Vector Arena on Monday, 24 October, the evening after the RWC 2011 Final. The other five nominees are centre Ma'a Nonu, back row Jerome Kaino and scrum half Piri Weepu, all of New Zealand, along with flanker David Pocock and scrum half Will Genia, both of Australia.
The IRB Player of the Year is one of 12 awards that will be presented at the ceremony. Among the others are Coach of the Year, Team of the Year, Sevens Player of the Year and Junior Player of the Year.
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