10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The nominees for all categories of this year's IRB Awards have been named, with the winners to be announced at the annual gala dinner, to be held this year at London's Royal Lancaster Hotel, on 28 November 2004.
The shortlisted nominees have been decided by the judging panel, comprising former internationals Rob Andrew, Jonathan Davies, John Eales (Chairman), Fabien Galthii, Gavin Hastings, Michael Jones, Dan Lyle, Federico Mendez, Francois Pienaar and Keith Wood.
Their five nominations for the IRB Player of the Year are - Serge Betsen (FRA), Schalk Burger (SA), Gordon D'Arcy (IRE), Matt Giteau (AUS) and Marius Joubert (SA).
Having been voted the Player of the RBS Six Nations Championship, it shouldn't be that surprising that D'Arcy is among those nominated, but it does seem extraordinary given where he was twelve months ago. Impressive as D'Arcy has been, though, the favourite for the award would appear to be Schalk Burger, the South African flanker who has taken the rugby world by storm over the summer, and played a key part in the renaissance of South Africa under Jake White.
Jamie Heaslip, the Trinity number eight, had a superb Under 21 World Cup and contests the award with two New Zealanders, Luke McAllister (who won the U-19 award two years ago) and his direct opponent in the final Jerome Kaino. Again, it's improbable that he will actually take the award, but it is a fair reflection on his own influential performances and recognition of the Irish performance at the World Cup.
Not surprisingly Jake White, who coached South Africa to the Tri Nations title, and Bernard Laporte of Six Nations Grand Slam winners France, are both shortlisted for coach of the year following their sides' triumphs.
They sit alongside Gordon Tietjens, who has coached New Zealand to unparalleled success in the world's leading Sevens tournaments, and the Portuguese coach Tomaz Morais, who, on a shoe-string budget and picking only from amateur players, took his side to European Nations Cup success and Rugby World Cup Sevens qualification.
Martin Johnson, England's Rugby World Cup winning captain, will present the award for the IRB Team of the Year, and the ceremony will be hosted by the former South African fly half Joel Stransky.
The full nominees and categories are as follows:IRB Player of the Year Serge Betsen (FRA) Schalk Burger (SA) Gordon D'Arcy (IRE) Matt Giteau (AUS) Marius Joubert (SA) IRB Team of the Year, in association with Sodexho France Portugal South Africa IRB Coach of the Year Bernard Laporte (FRA) Tomas Morais (POR) Gordon Tietjens (NZ Sevens) Jake White (SA) IRB Under 19 Player of the Year Fabien Cibray (FRA) Jeremy Thrush (NZ) Mikaele Tuu'u (NZ) IRB Under 21 Player of the Year, in association with Waterford Jamie Heaslip(IRE) Jerome Kaino (NZ) Luke McAlister (NZ) IRB Sevens Team of the Year Winner: New Zealand IRB Sevens Player of the Year Simon Amor (ENG) Ben Gollings (ENG) Lucio Lopez Fleming (ARG) IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service IRB Women's Personality of the Year Spirit of Rugby Award The Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service IRB Chairman's Award IRB Development Award