Elite players from seven different clubs and all three European professional leagues are among the 15 nominees for the prestigious EPCR European Player of the Year award.
Last season’s winner, Leone Nakarawa, who played a key role in Racing 92’s qualification for the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, is nominated once again along with his teammates, Finn Russell and Simon Zebo, while No 1 ranked, Saracens, have two representatives in Alex Goode and Mako Vunipola following their 100% record in another impressive pool stage performance.
Toulouse, who will face Racing 92 in an intriguing all-French quarter-final at the end of March, have Antoine Dupont and the livewire, Cheslin Kolbe, in the list, and not surprisingly, Edinburgh Rugby’s, Viliame Mata, is included on the back of several outstanding displays during the pool stage.
Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong and Garry Ringrose are nominated from Heineken Champions Cup holders, Leinster Rugby, while Ulster Rugby’s try machine, Jacob Stockdale, also gets the vote of the expert panel of judges. Munster Rugby are able to match Leinster’s representation with Tadhg Beirne, Joey Carbery and club captain, Peter O’Mahony, featuring in the star-studded longlist.
The winner of one of the most prized individual accolades in the world game will receive a specially struck gold medal as well as the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy.
Voting for the award is now open at www.epcrugby.com/epoty and fans will be in the running to win two VIP tickets to the Heineken Champions Cup final in Newcastle next May with one night’s accommodation courtesy of EPCR, and a signed jersey of one of the Heineken Champions Cup finalist clubs.
The list will be reduced to five players in April following the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included in initial list of 15, but who make a significant impact in a quarter-final or semi-final match, can be considered for the shortlist.
The voting will then be reopened and the winner of the 2019 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final at St James’ Park on Saturday, 11 May.
EPCR European Player of the Year award 2019 nominees
Tadhg BEIRNE (Munster Rugby)
Joey CARBERY (Munster Rugby)
Sean CRONIN (Leinster Rugby)
Antoine DUPONT (Toulouse)
Tadhg FURLONG (Leinster Rugby)
Alex GOODE (Saracens)
Cheslin KOLBE (Toulouse)
Viliame MATA (Edinburgh Rugby)
Leone NAKARAWA (Racing 92)
Peter O’MAHONY (Munster Rugby)
Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)
Finn RUSSELL (Racing 92)
Jacob STOCKDALE (Ulster Rugby)
Mako VUNIPOLA (Saracens)
Simon ZEBO (Racing 92)
Judging Panel: Bryan Habana (Channel 4), Chris Jones (BBC Radio 5 Live), Matthieu Lartot (France Télévisions), Emmanuel Massicard (Midi Olympique), Brian O’Driscoll (BT Sport), Dimitri Yachvili (beIN Sports).
Roll of Honour – 2018: Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92); 2017: Owen Farrell (Saracens); 2016: Maro Itoje (Saracens); 2015: Nick Abendanon (ASM Clermont Auvergne); 2014: Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon); 2013: Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon); 2012: Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby); 2011: Sean O’Brien (Leinster Rugby); 2010: Ronan O’Gara (Munster Rugby – best player of first 15 years of European professional club competitions)