Who are the Young Player of the Year winners since 2001 – and what happened to them? - Ruck

Who are the Young Player of the Year winners since 2001 – and what happened to them?

Heading back in time, we take a look at where its previous winners of the junior player award down the years…


After receiving the award, he made his international debut for Wales during June 2001 in a Test against Japan, coming off the bench before starting the next match against Romania. He attracted much media attention as part of a Wales national team which achieved Grand Slams in the Six Nations Championship in 2005 and 2008, but that would be as good as it got for Henson as he only won 33 caps in total.

He has also played for the British and Irish Lions, touring in 2005 to New Zealand but has never appeared at a World Cup. Domestically, Henson has played for Ospreys, Saracens, Toulon, Cardiff Blues, London Welsh, Bath and Bristol before joining Dragons (formerly Newport) in 2017.


Barnard was a member of the South African side that won the 2002 Under 21 Rugby World Championship and subsequently received the award. Injury then prevented him getting consistent rugby with the prop trying his hand in the Premiership by joining Northampton Saints in 2005. Two years later he joined Wasps after Saints were relegated but he was on the move again in 2009, joining Top 14 side Brive. His career has ultimately been stop start due to injury problems.


There was a time when Atiga was seen as such a potent attacking weapon that British Lions coach Clive Woodward singled out the Aucklander as the man of whom he was most wary ahead of the 2005 tour to New Zealand. But despite the centre/fullback looking set for superstardom only played one test for the All Blacks, against Tonga in the 2003 Rugby World Cup after being called into the squad as an injury replacement for Ben Blair.

However, after struggling injury problems of his own, Atiga made the decision to take a break from professional rugby in 2008. He returned to rugby two years later and eventually joined Edinburgh in 2012 but was forced to retire two seasons later due to season due to joint disease.


Now an All Blacks legend, he was Player of the Tournament at the 2004 IRB Under 21 World Championship and New Zealand Age Grade Player in the Year the same year. Kaino then scored a try on his All Blacks debut against the Barbarians (non Test cap) at Twickenham in December 2004.

In 2008 Kaino, who earned many comparisons with Jerry Collins for his uncompromising physical style, would become a key member of the All Blacks setup as the first-choice blindside flanker.

He would go onto win an incredible 83 caps, helping the All Blacks to back-to-back Rugby World Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2015. The now 35-year-old subseuqently ended his career this year by joining Top 14 side Toulouse earlier this year.


Front-rower Tatafu Polota-Nau enjoyed a lengthy career in Super Rugby with the Waratahs and Western Force before moving to Leicester Tigers after the autumn internationals in 2017.

Born in Western Sydney and a former Australia Schools international, hooker Polota-Nau played for Greater Western Sydney Rams and Parramatta Two-Blues at club level and earned the distinction of winning a first cap for Australia as a 20-year-old before he had even played at Super Rugby level.

Known as a powerful ball-carrier and fierce tackler, Polota-Nau made more than 140 appearances in Super Rugby and in 82 Tests, including World Cup campaigns in 2011 and 2015 where he played in the final against New Zealand, before heading to the northern hemisphere to join Leicester Tigers.


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