Irish duo Tommy Bowe and Cian Healy are in the running to pick up awards at the inaugural Magners League Awards ceremony, which will be held at the Millennium Stadium on Monday (August 23).
Ospreys flyer Tommy Bowe will be chasing a third major individual title when the first ever Magners League Awards ceremony takes place in Cardiff.
The Irish winger has already been crowned Players’ Player of the Year by both the Irish and Welsh Professional Players’ Associations and he is now in the running for the Magners Players’ Player of the Season award.
He faces tough opposition, however, with the Cardiff Blues duo of Xavier Rush and Ceri Sweeney, the league’s top try scorer Tim Visser, of Edinburgh, and Dragons winger Aled Brew all vying with him for the top honour.
That will be the final title handed out on an evening which will be filmed by Magners League broadcast partners, S4C, and shown ‘as live’ at 9.30pm on their channel on Monday night.
The new awards ceremony will also honour the Magners League Coach of the Season and the Young Player of the Season.
A captain will be selected for the Magners League Dream Team and the winners of the Specsavers Fairplay award, the Cardiff Blues, will be presented with a cheque for £10,000 to put towards youth development.
The Gilbert Golden Boot will be presented to the league’s most efficient marksman and there will also be a special Chairman’s award.
Edinburgh winger Visser is also in the running for the Young Player of the Season award, which was open to those players who were Under-23 and uncapped at the start of the season. They also had to play a minimum of 300 minutes in the 2009/10 campaign.
The other four candidates are all forwards, with Leinster’s Ireland-capped prop Cian Healy being joined by the Scarlets’ Wales squad member Ken Owens and Glasgow Warriors’ Jon Welsh as front row candidates. New Edinburgh captain Roddy Grant is the other nominee.
Tournament Director David Jordan said: “There is so much to celebrate and look back on after a record breaking season in which we launched an end of season play-off format to determine our champions.
“The inaugural Magners League grand final between Leinster and the Ospreys proved a great rugby occasion in Dublin and was a fitting finale to a great campaign.
“The Magners League Awards programme is something we have been looking to introduce for a few years now and Monday night’s gala ceremony at the Millennium Stadium will not only give us a chance to reflect on last season, but also to look forward to the introduction of our new Italian teams, Benetton Treviso and Aironi Rugby, when the new season kicks off in two weeks’ time.
“They will arrive at the start of what will be the 10th anniversary season of tournaments organised by Celtic Rugby and we have come a long way since the first game kicked-off at the Brewery Field on August 17, 2001.
“What the Magners League Awards will show is just how strong a product we now have.
“The Magners League will boast more than 200 international players from more than 10 nations this coming season and both the quality and competitiveness of the league are set to rise again in 2010 /11.”
MAGNERS LEAGUE AWARDS NOMINEES –
MAGNERS PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE SEASON:
Cardiff Blues number 8 Xavier Rush was in outstanding form last season as the Welsh capital outfit narrowly missed out on a play-off place. A talismanic figure, the former All Black’s powerful ball-carrying abilities and immense physical presence saw him lead from the front as he missed just three of the region’s 18 Magners League games.
He may have started the season as second choice but Ceri Sweeney made the Cardiff Blues number 10 shirt his own by the end of the campaign. The former Dragons playmaker was at the heart of the Blues’ Magners League revival, guiding them to five straight wins in rounds 14-18 and missing just one match in the entire season.
Ospreys star Tommy Bowe enjoyed a truly remarkable season, winning not only the Magners League title for a second time but also being crowned Players’ Player of the Year by both the Irish and Welsh Professional Players’ Associations. The Ireland winger returned from his first Lions tour last summer with three Test caps and a growing reputation and went on to cement his position as one of the leading wingers in world rugby by continuing to top the Magners League all-time try-scoring charts.
Aled Brew played 14 times for the Dragons last season, scoring six tries as the Rodney Parade outfit pushed hard for a top four berth. Having previously been contracted by both the Blues and Ospreys, Brew became an integral part of a Dragons side that won seven of their nine home fixtures, beating all four semi-finalists along the way. Still just 24, Brew impressed not only with his fine finishing ability but also with his substantial work-rate.
Edinburgh winger Tim Visser may have missed out on a play-off spot last season but he was a worthy member of the Magners League Dream Team. The Dutch-born England Schoolboy international beat off competition from world-renowned stars such as Shane Williams and Doug Howlett to make the end-of-season XV thanks to a sensational record of 10 tries in 17 Magners League games. The 23-year-old former Newcastle Falcon finished at the head of the try-scoring charts following seven tries in the final six games, including a stunning hat-trick against champions elect the Ospreys.
MAGNERS YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON:
Edinburgh back rower Roddy Grant is just 23 but he made such an impression last season that he has already been handed his club’s captaincy for the new campaign. Grant made just two appearances in his debut season of 2008/09 but featured in every single Magners League game last time out, starting 16 times and playing 80 minutes on 12 occasions.
Despite being just 22 years of age, Ireland’s Cian Healy is already a regular on the international scene. Healy’s rise to prominence saw him make his international debut in November last year, with the Leinster prop having since featured in all five 2010 Six Nations games and faced each of the three southern Hemisphere giants. Healy also played in 13 Magners League games last term, including the grand final defeat to the Ospreys at the RDS.
Scarlets hooker Ken Owens stepped out of the shadow of Wales and Lions star Matthew Rees last season, featuring in all bar one of his side’s 18 Magners League ties. Having made just 12 starts in his previous three seasons, the 23-year-old began 13 games last time out. His form earned him a first senior Wales call-up for the 2010 Six Nations.
In addition to being named in the Magners League Dream Team, Tim Visser capped a remarkable debut campaign with Edinburgh by becoming the only player to be nominated for both the Magners Players’ Player of the Year and the Young Player of the Year awards.
Glasgow youngster Jon Welsh became a Magners League regular last term in just his second season as a professional. The 23-year-old former electrician appeared 13 times in 2009/10 as the Warriors reached the Magners League play-offs. Having missed out on the Scotland Academy system and instead made his name in club rugby, Welsh made his Scotland ‘A’ debut in November last year and is being tipped to step up to senior international rugby sooner rather than later.
2009/10 Magners League Dream Team:
15 – Ben Blair (Cardiff Blues)
14 – Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
13 – Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster)
12 – James Hook (Ospreys)
11 – Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
10 – Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors)
9 – Tomas O’Leary (Munster)
1 – Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues)
2 – Ken Owens (Scarlets)
3 – Adam Jones (Ospreys)
4 – Leo Cullen (Leinster)
5 – Ali Kellock (Glasgow Warriors)
6 – Jerry Collins (Ospreys)
7 – John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors)
8 – Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)