Wallabies vice-captain Berrick Barnes has won the Rugby Union Players' Association's medal for excellence, despite missing Australia's spring tour with injury.

Barnes rolled his ankle before the Bledisloe Cup Test in Tokyo in October and susequently missed Australia's grand slam tour of the UK and Ireland.

The award is voted on by the 132 Super 14 professionals on a 3-2-1 basis and, as well as on-field exploits, recognises what players have been doing off the field in preparation for their life after rugby.

Barnes has been studying at Griffith University and, with his switch to NSW from Queensland, will continue at the University of Sydney.

"Being named as vice-captain of the Wallabies is a reflection of the high esteem Berrick is held in by both his peers and the ARU coaching staff," outgoing RUPA chief executive Tony Dempsey said.

"It was unfortunate he was injured and unable to tour with the Wallabies, however I'm sure he will have an even better 2010."

Queensland prop Laurie Weeks won the RUPA newcomer of the year award, which Barnes took out in 2006.