Four players from the two teams that have reached next Saturday’s Heineken Cup final, Leinster and Northampton Saints, have been shortlisted for the ERC European Player of the Year award.
And the fifth candidate for Europe’s top individual award will lead Stade Francais into their Amlin Challenge Cup final clash with Harlequins on Friday night.
In 2010, ERC, the governing body of Europe’s two premier club rugby tournaments, launched the highly acclaimed ERC15 Awards, recognising the efforts of a number of outstanding contributors to the first decade and a half of European competition.
The inaugural recipient of the ERC European Player award, as the best player over the first 15 years of these tournaments, was Munster out-half Ronan O’Gara.
For the 2010/11 season, ERC will present a singular award to the best player of the season from both of its tournaments – the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup – selected by a panel of five experts and ratified by the captains and coaches of the 44 teams from the two competitions.
The selection panel comprised three members of last year’s ERC15 Awards committee – Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Jean-Roger Delsaud (Midi Olympique) and Stephen Jones (Sunday Times). They were joined by current Heineken Cup ambassador Raphael Ibanez and Gerry Thornley from the Irish Times.
The selection panel studied the performances of players from the 24 Heineken Cup and 20 Amlin Challenge Cup teams in this season’s campaign and presented a five-man shortlist to ERC (in alphabetical order):
• Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)
• Isa Nacewa (Leinster)
• Sean O’Brien (Leinster)
• Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais)
• Soane Tonga’uiha (Northampton Saints)
The shortlist has been presented to the 44 teams for their views and the selection panel will reconvene in Cardiff, host city for the two European finals this week, to complete the selection process and confirm the winner of the ERC European Player of the Year award.
The winner will be announced next Monday (May 23) and a presentation will be made at his team’s home venue.