Cult hero surprised with medal after beautiful act

They say one good turn deserves another and Ruby Tui got her just reward at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco.

The New Zealand rugby star has become a global sports smash hit for her infectious personality and positivity and again she took center stage again at the glitzy ceremony.

Tui, who overcame a traumatic childhood to become an Olympic and world champion, emulated Sonny Bill Williams in gifting her Rugby World Cup winner’s medal to a young fan in the strong at Eden Park on November 12.

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But an even more heartwarming backstory emerged as it was revealed that the recipient, Lucia, was a leukaemia survivor who had met her hero Tui at a fan engagement event during the tournament.

And just as they had with Wallabies great Justin Harrison, World Rugby presented Tui with a replacement medal after she had accepted an award for breakthrough women’s player of the year.

“She’d just been through a pretty hard battle with her family,” Tui said of Lucia.

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“I met her dad. It was super inspiring. She actually gave me her biggest bead that represents bravery. So this is my gold medal now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Black Ferns legend Fiao’o Fa’amausili then took the stage with the replacement medal.

“685 baby!” Tui said, referencing Samoa’s area code.

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“I’m so happy right now. That was a really cool surprise. Thank you so much.”

Tui’s mentor, Wayne Smith, was named World Rugby’s coach of the year after upsetting England in the World Cup final.

Smith masterminded a remarkable turnaround in just seven months, winning all 12 of his Tests after inheriting a team at a low ebb.

‘The Professor’ described it as the highlight of his wildly successful coaching career.

“At the start it was like taking the granddaughter and all her best friends at Disneyland,” Smith said.

“They were excited, joyful, noisy, and then they all found the courage to hop on the rollercoaster.”


World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year – Ruahei Demant (New Zealand)

World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year – Josh van der Flier (Ireland)

World Rugby Coach of the Year – Wayne Smith (New Zealand Women’s 15s)

World Rugby Men’s Breakthrough Player of the Year – Ange Capuozzo (Italy)

World Rugby Women’s Breakthrough Player of the Year – Ruby Tui (New Zealand)

World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year – Terry Kennedy (Ireland)

World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year – Charlotte Caslick (Australia)

World Rugby Referee Award – Tappe Henning (South Africa)

Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – Dr. Farah Palmer (New Zealand)

International Rugby Players Special Merit Award – Bryan Habana (South Africa)

International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year – Rodrigo Fernandez (Chile vs USA)

International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year – Abby Dow (England, vs Canada)

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