Heineken Champions Cup joint-leading try scorer Kotaro Matsushima has earned a place on the European Player of the Year nominee list with some scintillating performances in this year’s competition. 

The ASM Clermont Auvergne full-back dazzled in the competition’s opening fixture in December when he notched a hat-trick of tries in a breathtaking 51-38 win over European Rugby Challenge Cup holders Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate. 

The Japanese international also produced a match-winning 82nd minute try in the 27-25 Round of 16 victory against Wasps to secure a quarter-final berth – earning the Heineken Star of the Match award in the process.

Matsushima played every minute of the TOP 14 club’s campaign in the competition, gaining 252 metres, beating 14 defenders and completing 37 carries to announce himself on the European Rugby scene. 

Voting for the award, which is in its 11th season, is now open HERE and those fans who take part will be in the running to win a signed ball and a signed jersey of one of the Heineken Champions Cup finalist clubs. 

The list will be reduced to five players in early May, following the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup semi-finals, by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges. Players who have not been included in the initial list of 15, but who make a significant impact in a semi-final match may be considered for the shortlist.

The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2021 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final on Saturday, 22 May.

EPCR European Player of the Year 2021 award nominees:

Grégory ALLDRITT (La Rochelle)
Levani BOTIA (La Rochelle)
Antoine DUPONT (Toulouse)
Tadhg FURLONG (Leinster Rugby)
Kevin GOURDON (La Rochelle)
Robbie HENSHAW (Leinster Rugby)
Matthieu JALIBERT (Bordeaux-Bègles)
Jerome KAINO (Toulouse)
Hugo KEENAN (Leinster Rugby)
Julien MARCHAND (Toulouse)
Kotaro MATSUSHIMA (ASM Clermont Auvergne) 
Romain NTAMACK (Toulouse)
Raymond RHULE (La Rochelle)
Will SKELTON (La Rochelle)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby) 

Judging Panel – Erik Bonneval (beIN SPORTS), Bryan Habana (Channel 4), Sonja McLaughlan (BBC Radio 5 Live), Alan Quinlan (Virgin Media), Dimitri Yachvili (France Télévisions) 

Roll of Honour – 2020: Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs); 2019: Alex Goode (Saracens); 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)