USA Rugby Release
TOKYO, JPN. – USA Men’s National Team XVs hooker Joe Taufete’e has been nominated as World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year in the 2019 awards, the international federation announced today.
The first USA Men’s 15s player to ever be nominated in the category*, Taufete’e earns the recognition after a record-breaking year.
In March, Taufete’e scored a hat trick against Uruguay to pass Ireland’s Keith Wood as the highest-scoring hooker in international rugby history. Wood held the record for nearly 14 years while Taufete’e tied and broke the benchmark in what was then only his 21st test appearance. He finished the Americas Rugby Championship as the tournament’s top try-scorer with six.
Nominated with Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa), Tom Curry (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa) and Ardie Savea (New Zealand), the USA hooker joins an incredibly talented group with two Rugby World Cup 2019 semi-finalists and three finalists.
A winner will be chosen at the annual awards ceremony on November 3 in Tokyo.
“I’m beyond grateful to the Big Man upstairs for all He’s blessed me with,” said Taufete’e.
“This is a huge honor for my family who has made many sacrifices to help me get to where I am. Thank you to my wife, Coach Gary Gold, the USA coaching staff and especially my teammates. This nomination means a lot and would not be possible without all the hands who played a part in the grind.”
“It has been absolutely incredible to watch Joe grow as a person and a player and, as a team, we could not be more proud of his achievement,” said Head Coach Gary Gold.
“To become the first USA Men’s player to be nominated in such a prestigious category says a great deal not only about how talented Joe is as a player but also how his work ethic and dedication to the sport rivals the very best rugby players in the world. We are tremendously excited for Joe and believe his nomination will be an inspiration to future Eagles across the nation.”
Since his debut only four years ago, at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England, Taufete’e has scored 20 tries in only 27 test appearances. Five of those 20 tries have come against teams ranked higher than the United States including two each against then No. 12 Georgia (2017) and No. 6 Scotland (2018), as well as another against then-No. 2 Ireland (2018). His passing of Ireland great Keith Wood’s record came in only a third of the caps as it took Wood.
Born in American Samoa and raised in Vallejo, CA, Taufete’e picked up rugby when he was 18 years old to impress a woman who ultimately became his wife. Very quickly developing a knack for the sport, the stud hooker competed for a number of clubs in Southern California including Belmont Shore, before captaining the developmental USA Selects in 2016.
Taufete’e is the third USA Men’s player to be nominated in the 2019 World Rugby Awards, joining Folau Niua and Stephen Tomasin who are both up for World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year.
*Based on internal records dating back to the inception of the World Rugby Awards in 2001, then known as the IRB International Player of the Year Award.