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Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:18 UK

Saracens' Schalk Brits is players' player of the year

Schalk Brits
Brits joined Saracens in 2009

Saracens hooker Schalk Brits has been voted the players' player of the year for the 2009-2010 season.

Brits, who enjoyed a spectacular year for the Premiership finalists, received his award at the Rugby Players' Association awards on Wednesday.

"The last 12 months since I arrived in the UK have been absolutely phenomenal. Having this to add to everything else is very special indeed," he said.

The Norman Broadbent young player award went to Leicester's Ben Youngs.

Brits beat off the challenge of Northampton duo Soane Tonga'Uiha and Ben Foden, while Youngs edged out another pair of Saints, Chris Ashton and Courtney Lawes, to win the young player award.

"Since the start of this season things have just got better and better for me, better than I could ever have hoped for, and to receive this award on top of all that is a massive honour and a privilege," added Youngs.

Others recognised on the night were Simon Shaw, who won the special merit award for his incredible contribution to the game, and legendary former BBC commentator Bill McLaren, who was posthumously inducted into the Rugby Players' Association Hall of Fame.

Andy Ripley received the Blyth spirit award, a special presentation from RPA members for outstanding courage in the face of adversity.

Ripley, who starred for England as a number eight in the 1970s, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005.

Since his diagnosis, he has worked closely with the Prostate Cancer Charity, using his media profile to raise awareness of the disease and encourage men to get tested as a preventative measure.

After three years in remission, his cancer returned in 2008, but he has continued to fight the disease in his own inimitable fashion.

Prostate Cancer Charity chief executive John Neate said: "We are delighted that the Rugby Players' Association has honoured Andy Ripley with this award.

"Andy is an extraordinary man and his huge contribution to our work in raising awareness of prostate cancer is immeasurable.

"Andy has touched the lives of so many people including all our staff and supporters across the UK.

"His positivity, love of life, humour and immense kindness has helped so many men and their families have hope as they face this debilitating disease and he continues to do this in spite of his own battle with prostate cancer."



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see also
Ashton scoops Premiership award
18 May 10 |  English
Tonga'uiha wins two Saints awards
18 May 10 |  Northampton
Mallinder pays tribute to Ashton
08 May 10 |  Northampton
England pick nine untried players
11 May 10 |  English
England reward Ashton persistence
18 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Ashton & Hape earn England calls
13 Jan 10 |  English
Ashton signs new Northampton deal
14 Jan 10 |  Northampton
Ashton boosted by England call-up
16 Nov 09 |  Northampton


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