Man Of The Match awards are a staple part of professional rugby matches.
Let’s take a look at what players get for being Man Of The Match, and how this has changed over the years. We’ll also show you some of the most embarrassing awards ever given.
What Do Rugby Players Get For Man Of The Match?
Different tournaments have their own traditions of what is given to the Man Of The Match.
Traditionally, players were presented with a bottle of champagne and a firm handshake by the sponsor. However, alcoholic drinks seem no longer to be considered appropriate for sports awards!
An engraved vase is another common award that I see in professional tournaments. The vase is usually embossed with some kind of rugby theme, like a ball or the figure of a player.
Usually, the tournament sponsors have the ultimate say on what is used. It may even be a product associated with or made by the sponsor (apart from alcohol).
In recent times, I see players also being awarded a medal to hang around their necks.
Match awards in the 2019 Rugby World Cup
Mastercard was a principal sponsor of the 2019 World Cup in Japan. The credit card company commissioned a trophy design inspired by Japanese traditions of origami.
Check it out below, it’s a nice design.
But Mastercard went a little further. While the match was taking place, a combination of software and a laser etched commentary from the live match feed onto the award.
This made each award unique when it was handed to the player.
Who Decides The Man Of The Match In Rugby?
The Man Of The Match is usually decided by one or several of the television commentators.
But what happens when there are several broadcasters, as is usual in international matches?
There have been plenty of amusing times when television viewers hear the commentators give the man of the match award to one player while the stadium announcer booms out the name of a different player.
That’s a little awkward for the players, so the practice has been changed in many tournaments. Usually, the television panel from the “home” country nominates the player and this is communicated to the other broadcasters.
Most Embarrassing Man Of The Match In Rugby
The advent of the internet opened up many possibilities for technical innovation. But that doesn’t mean that every possibility should be taken!
In the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the tournament organizers decided to use a Twitter vote for the award. Who couldn’t have predicted that this would lead to hilariously bad results?
Australia thumped England in a 33-13 win that knocked England out of the tournament.
The Wallabies fly half scored two tries and nailing every kick at goal. Bernard Foley’s haul of 28 points was the highest ever points scored by a single player in matches between the two old rivals.
But that was of no consequence to the Twitter voters. This World Cup was held in England, and maybe there were far more home supporters using Twitter that day. Or perhaps supporters from other countries thought this would be amusing.
Whatever the reason, the Twitterati voted in their droves for England forward Joe Launchbury.
Most reluctant accepter of an award
No player wants to face the press after a heavy loss, least of all while accepting a trophy. It’s even worse when your team is knocked out of the biggest tournament in the sport.
Here is the hapless Joe Launchbury in this very unfortunate position.
What you don’t see is the Australian team walking around the pitch behind the billboard soaking up the happy cheers from their supporters.
Did you spot the weird trophy?
If you squint really hard at what Launchbury is holding, you’ll see a very weird Man Of The Match trophy.
It’s a rugby ball that is severed half-open. There’s a figure inside the ball with an upraised arm poking out.
I bet Launchbury wished there was a ball big enough for him to climb inside at that moment in time.
Not the only embarrassing moment at this tournament
The tournament organizers knew they had to change this ridiculous outcome. But it wasn’t just Launchbury’s award that pushed them into taking action.
A Uruguayan player was named Man Of The Match in a game against Fiji with five minutes left of a game.
Unfortunately for the broadcasters and the tournament organizers, the player punched an opponent a minute later. The referee awarded a red card sent him off the pitch in disgrace!
A red card and a Man Of The Match award! There are not many players who can retire saying they did the double.
Do Players Get Paid For A Man Of The Match Award?
Some professional rugby clubs give a monetary bonus to their players who pick up a Man Of The Match award.
But since the introduction of salary caps in several leagues, this has led to some difficulties for the regulating authorities.
The RFU (English Rugby Football Union) had to issue guidelines on what kind of payments had to be included when clubs calculated player salaries.
A financial bonus for a Man Of The Match award is included as what must be declared as part of the player’s salary.
You can read more about player salaries in our article on what players earn in the English Premiership and playing for England.
We’ve also covered salaries in Major League Rugby (MLR) in the United Statues.