Wales wing Shane Williams has been named the International Rugby Board's world player of the year at their awards ceremony in London.
The Ospreys star beat Scotland skipper Mike Blair, Wales captain Ryan Jones, All Black fly-half Dan Carter and Italy captain Sergio Parisse to the award.
The wing became the first Welshman to win the individual award.
"It's been a hell of a year and this has just capped it off really," said Wales' record try-scorer.
During 2008 the 31-year-old Williams broke the Welsh try-scoring record and inspired Wales to the 2008 Grand Slam.
Williams already won the RBS Six Nations Player of the Year gong as his six tries equalling Will Greenwood's Six Nations try-scoring record.
"It's quite mad to be honest," said Williams.
"It's the biggest honour you can get as an individual in rugby and it's totally overwhelming.
"Just being nominated was humbling. And to receive the award from Bryan Habana, who is one of the best - if not the best - wing in the world means so much to me."
"I was more nervous up there on stage than I was facing the haka against the All Blacks on Saturday!"
THE WONDER OF WILLIAMS
Date of Birth: 26 February, 1977
Previous clubs: Amman Utd, Neath
Favourite TV show: The Simpsons
Favourite meal: Christmas dinner
Did you know?: Williams preferred football as a child and supports Blackburn Rovers
Williams scored decisive tries in four of Wales' five Six Nations wins and his score in the Grand Slam decider against France was the 41st try of his international career, breaking Gareth Thomas's all-time Welsh try record.
Williams, who boasts a prolific international strike-rate of 43 tries in 62 Tests, was also a key member of the Ospreys side that won the EDF Energy Cup last season.
But his sensational displays and lethal finishing helped secure his, and Wales', second Six Nations clean sweep in four years and captured the imagination of the rugby world.
Williams' award is remarkable given he once considered quitting rugby after admitting he had "had a gutsful" of the game.
In 2002 he suffered a series of hamstring injuries and was not in former Wales coach Steve Hansen's plans.
"I was fed up and felt like quitting," recalled Williams.
"I wasn't playing for Wales and I wasn't happy.
"There were times when I thought it wasn't worth it and I was convinced I wouldn't play for Wales again."
Williams' determination drove him back to the big stage and he starred for Wales at the 2003 World Cup before playing for the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
"You have to be stubborn and bloody-minded," said the 5ft 6in wing, who has often been accused of being too small to be a world-class international player.
Plucked from obscurity in his early 20s from amateur side Amman United where he was playing as a scrum-half, Williams was a late-comer to professional rugby.
The then-Neath coach Lyn Jones spotted his potential and signed him for the Welsh All Blacks but when Welsh rugby went regional, Williams followed Jones to the Ospreys
Williams joins an elite list of top rugby players to have won the IRB award with previous winners including Ireland's Keith Wood, Fabien Galthie of France, England's Jonny Wilkinson, Schalk Burger of South Africa, New Zealand pair Carter and Richie McCaw, and Springbok Bryan Habana.
The winner was selected by the award's independent panel of judges - headed by legendary Australian captain John Eales - comprising more than 500 Test caps between then.
Tri-Nations champions New Zealand were named team of the year, with their coach Graham Henry coach of the year.
Henry said: "There have been 15 or so players who left us after the World Cup to play in this part of the world so it's great to have a team that's relatively young and inexperienced come through and do the business."
The International Rugby Players' Association special merit award went to former Argentina captain Agustin Pichot in recognition of his "tremendous service to the game on and off the field."
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