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Three Irish Players In Contention For ERC Player Award

Three Irish Players In Contention For ERC Player Award

With 16 teams now chasing the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup, ERC, the governing body of European club rugby’s two tournaments, is beginning the search for the outstanding player who will follow in the footsteps of Sean O’Brien and become the ERC European Player of the Year for 2012.

Leinster’s Sean O’Brien won the prestigious title in 2011 after helping his province clinch the Heineken Cup with a dramatic second half recovery against Northampton Saints. He followed Munster’s Ronan O’Gara as ERC European Player of the Year.

Now the search is underway again to find the 2012 winner. A longlist of 15 contenders, based on the performances of players from the 44 sides in both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup competitions this season, will be submitted by ERC to the judging panel to use in their review of the knockout stages.

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While the initial longlist recognises the performances from the pool stages only, the judging panel will have the option to consider players who make outstanding contributions in the quarter-final and semi-final matches for their shortlist and final selection.

The judging panel for this season’s accolade is made up of: Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Raphael Ibanez (Heineken Cup Ambassador), Stephen Jones (Sunday Times), Emmanuel Massicard (Midi Olympique) and Gerry Thornley (Irish Times).

A shortlist of five players will be announced following the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals (April 27-29) and the ERC European Player of the Year winner for 2012 will be selected after the London finals weekend of May 18-19.

In 2010, ERC launched the highly acclaimed ERC15 Awards, recognising the efforts of a number of outstanding contributors to the first 15 years of European club rugby competition.

Two-time Heineken Cup winner Ronan O’Gara was the inaugural recipient of the ERC European Player award, as the best player over the first 15 years of the two tournaments.

For the 2010/11 season, ERC moved to present the honour to the best player of the season from the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, selected by a panel of five experts in conjunction with the 44 teams from the two competitions with supporters also given the opportunity to vote on the shortlist.

2012 ERC EUROPEAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR LONGLIST (Based on pool stage performances):

Mouritz Botha, lock (Saracens)

Rugged heart of a Saracens pack that won twice on the road to set up home quarter-final. Played five times and scored a vital try in last round triumph in Treviso.

Mike Brown, full-back (Harlequins)

Scored five tries to equal Harlequins’ Heineken Cup record for a campaign. Always a threat with the ball in hand, three of his tries were against Toulouse, including a double in the win in France.

Antoine Claassen, back rower (Brive)

Drove Brive into the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup for the second successive season with his superb defence. Scored a vital try in the pool-clinching victory over Sale Sharks in round 6 and superb leader throughout.

Thierry Dusautoir, back rower (Toulouse)

The current IRB World Player of the Year led Toulouse into the last-eight yet again, figuring in five of the six pool matches. One of the toughest tacklers in Europe.

Owen Farrell, out-half/centre (Saracens)

Mature beyond his young years, he was twice a match winner in the pool stages (against Biarritz and the Ospreys) and played with exceptional poise. Man-of-the-match against Benetton Treviso.

Stephen Ferris, back rower (Ulster)

Ever-present in the Ulster pack as the Irish province made it back-to-back quarter-finals for the first time. Picked up two man-of-the-match awards and scored a try in the away win in Aironi. His thundering tackling was a feature.

Wesley Fofana, centre (Clermont Auvergne)

Sensational new strike force in the star-studded Clermont backs division, he won the man-of-the-match award for the home win over Leicester Tigers, scoring two tries. Claimed three tries in all in the pool stages.

Gethin Jenkins, prop (Cardiff Blues)

Did not miss a game for the Blues as they reached the quarter-finals. Cornerstone of the pack for both region and country and a massive asset at the breakdown with his skills over the ball.

Jonathan Sexton, out-half (Leinster)

Highly influential in Leinster’s vital back-to-back wins over Bath and also earned a draw with a last-gasp penalty in round 1 at Montpellier. An impressive total of 63 points from five starts.

Greig Laidlaw, scrum half/out-half (Edinburgh)

Magnificent and ice-cool match winner with over 60 points in steering Edinburgh to the last-eight for only the second time – and the first time Scotland has staged a home quarter-final.

Timoci Matanavou, winger (Toulouse)

Equalled Toulouse record for European tries in a season with seven in pool stages in debut season in Heineken Cup. Scored match-winning brace of in pool winning victory at Harlequins.

Ignacio Mieres, out-half (Exeter Chiefs)

Scored 59 points in the Amlin Challenge Cup pool stages to steer the Chiefs into the knockout stages of a European competition for the first time in their history.

Ben Morgan, number 8 (Scarlets)

Power to burn, but his all-round skills also blossomed as the season progressed. Played in five pool matches and scored a vital try in round 1 win over Castres Olympique.

Ronan O’Gara, out-half (Munster)

Played in all pool matches as Munster won six from six for the first time. He is now the tournament’s leading points scorer with the most appearances. Won two pool matches with red zone drop goals.

Netani Talei, number 8 (Edinburgh)

Scored three tries in five pool outings and picked up two man-of-the-match awards. His ball-carrying was as important to Edinburgh’s success as Greig Laidlaw’s boot.