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.
Paul O'Connell has become the first Munster player to win the Irish Rugby Union Players Association (IRUPA) Players' Player of the Year award.
The towering Ireland lock beat off stiff competition from his provincial and international colleague Denis Leamy and Leinster's Argentinian star Felipe Contepomi to claim the honour at Wednesday night's BT IRUPA Players Awards ceremony in Dublin.
The 26-year-old O'Connell, who this season played a pivotal part in Ireland winning their second Triple Crown in three seasons and Munster qualifying through to their third Heineken Cup final since 2000, was previously nominated for the award in both 2004 and 2005.
Previous winners include London Wasps flanker Johnny O'Connor (2005), Leinster centre Gordon D'Arcy (2004) and Leinster lock Malcolm O'Kelly, in the inaugural year of 2003.
In typically modest fashion, O'Connell paid tribute to his team mates when accepting the award, saying: "If I was picked because of my success in the line outs, then I would have to look at the guys lifting, the guy throwing, and others.
"It's a team, and not an individual effort. I'm delighted to win something like this because it has come from the players in the country, but it could easily have been somebody else.
"It is a massive honour, it's nice to win it and also nice to see that other guys, like Shane Horgan, have been honoured for their contribution to Irish rugby this year."
Leinster winger Horgan was the winner of the IRUPA Tyrone Crystal Try of the Year award for his last-gasp effort against England which secured the Triple Crown for Ireland at Twickenham.
...Current Dungannon coach Jeremy Davidson...
Former Ulster, Ireland and Lions lock Jeremy Davidson was also inducted into the IRUPA Hooke & MacDonald Hall of Fame, joining previous inductees Peter Clohessy, Eric Elwood, Mick Galwey, Paddy Johns and Keith Wood.
Davidson, who currently coaches Dungannon, admitted: "I am extremely honoured and proud to be accepting this award and joining the former players already inducted. I was unlucky to have my career cut short through injury but this award means so much to me especially when it comes from the players I played for and against over the years."
Ulster and Ireland duo Neil Best and Andrew Trimble scooped the gongs for Unsung Hero and Newcomer of the Year respectively.
2006 BT IRUPA PLAYERS AWARDS' WINNERS:
BT IRUPA Players' Player of the Year - Paul O'Connell (Munster)
IRUPA Club Energise Sport Unsung Hero - Neil Best (Ulster)
IRUPA Hooke & MacDonald Hall of Fame - Jeremy Davidson (Ulster)
IRUPA Tyrone Crystal Try of the Year - Shane Horgan (Leinster)
IRUPA Green Giant Newcomer of the Year Winner - Andrew Trimble (Ulster)