Wales skipper Sam Warburton got his 2012 off to a flying start when he was named as the winner of the Rugby Union Writers' Club's 'Personality of the Year' at their annual dinner in London on Monday night.
The 23-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker received the 'Pat Marshall Award' to become the fourth Welsh recipient in the past eight years, following in the footsteps of Rob Howley (2003/04), Gareth Thomas (2004/05) and Shane Williams (2007/08).
Warburton was shortlisted for the top award, which was first won by Mervyn Davies back in 1976, alongside All Blacks World Cup winning coach Graham Henry, French World Cup skipper Thierry Dusautoir and Shane Williams.
"It is a fantastic honour and very surreal. There are players on the list of previous winners who I used to watch on DVD when I was growing up and really admired," said Warburton.
"To be named alongside them is just incredible and it is something that I don't think will completely sink in for some time.
"It has been a whirlwind year for me and I had my best and worst moment in the space of 18 minutes when I led Wales into the World Cup semi-final. I wouldn't have put a pound on even making the squad at this time last year.
"Martyn Williams was still in the side, yet I ended up captaining Wales into a World Cup semi-final. I still wasn't very satisfied with what happened at the World Cup because we needed a scalp of a southern hemisphere team and needed to beat France.
"But it was definitely a big step forward for Welsh rugby and we played some great rugby. "Now we need to win a championship and that is definitely a realistic goal for the Six Nations.
"I still feel there is unfinished business and that's why we are looking forward to the Six Nations. We are going to be ambitious, not over confident, and hopefully there are plenty more good moments to come."
It was a double night of celebration for Wales at the dinner as former Wales flanker Richard Parks received the 'RUWC Special Award' for his efforts in the 737 Challenge, climbing the world's highest peaks and reaching the two poles.