5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
Despite being only one place away from receiving the Wooden Spoon, Italy's players are topping the leaderboard with Andrea Masi dominating since the competition opened with 21% of the votes.
With the team's spirits flying high since their win against France, the Italian players will be looking to put in another strong performance this weekend, which could boost votes further.
The full shortlist of 12 players is: Fabio Semenzato (Italy), Toby Flood (England), Chris Ashton (England), Sean O'Brien (Ireland), Sam Warburton (Wales), Ronan O'Gara (Ireland), Andrea Masi (Italy), Maxime Medard (France), James Haskell (England), James Hook (Wales), Tom Palmer (England) and Thierry Dusautoir (France).
With the vote remaining open until after the final weekend of matches (closing at 5pm on Monday, March 21), there is still a great deal for all twelve to play for.
On track for a Grand Slam win, strong performances from England's Toby Flood and Chris Ashton could see both players climb the ranks in the final hours.
As seen in previous years, the fans' votes over the final weekend will make all the difference to the result.
In a change from the 2010 competition, where a panel of experts selected the shortlist, all of the players who picked up RBS man-of-the-match awards during the first four weekends of the 2011 Championship were automatically placed in contention for the prestigious award.
The winner will be chosen by rugby fans from across the six nations who are being asked to vote for their RBS Player of the Championship, based on performance, form and achievement.
Last year saw Ireland's flying winger Tommy Bowe take home the RBS Player of the Championship award. He was a clear winner with over 50% of the vote.
Once the votes have been counted and verified, the announcement of the official RBS Player of the Championship will be issued next Wednesday.