Following the conclusion of the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup, ERC, the governing body of European club rugby’s two tournaments, has announced the longlist for the prestigious 2013 ERC European Player of the Year award.
Selected by a distinguished panel of rugby experts, the longlist for one of the most prized individual accolades in the game includes 15 outstanding players from the 44 teams competing in the 2012/13 tournaments.
The beginning of the search to select a successor to Leinster’s Rob Kearney, who won the ERC European Player of the Year award last season, was based on player performances during the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Wesley Fofana of Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins full-back Mike Brown, Owen Farrell of Saracens and Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar who all made last year’s longlist, are included again.
The judging panel will also have the option to consider additional players who make major contributions during the knock-out stages of both tournaments before announcing a five-man shortlist following the semi-finals with the overall winner named directly after the European club finals in Dublin next May.
In addition to the decision of the panel, the 44 sides in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup will have the opportunity to vote for contenders nominated on the 2013 ERC European Player of the Year 2013 shortlist.
Meanwhile, supporters can also have their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2013, and on the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup Facebook pages.
The judging panel for this season’s award is: Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Will Greenwood (Daily Telegraph, World Cup winner and two-time Challenge Cup winner), Stephen Jones (Rugby Correspondent, Sunday Times), Emmanuel Massicard (Editor, Midi Olympique) and Gerry Thornley (Rugby Correspondent, Irish Times).
2013 ERC EUROPEAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR LONGLIST:
– Based on performances in the pool stages
Steffon Armitage (Toulon)
Rory Best (Ulster)
Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne)
Mamuka Gorgodze (Montpellier)
Charlie Hodgson ((Saracens)
James Johnston (Harlequins)
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)
Simon Zebo (Munster)
FORM GUIDE –
Rory Best: The heartbeat of Ulster who are looking to go one better than last season in the Heineken Cup. Intelligent, combative and consistent. Quite simply one of the most complete hookers in rugby. Only two other hookers have delivered more successful lineout throws than Best (64) this season.
Ruan Pienaar: There are few half-backs in world rugby who appear to have as much time as the talented South African. An option for Mark Anscombe at either scrum half or out-half, he has been superb in every facet for Ulster. Only four players produced more kicks in play than Pienaar (56) in the pool stages.
Simon Zebo: A coiled spring of exuberant talent. The hugely promising Zebo made his European mark last season with a hat-trick in round 6 of the Heineken Cup against Northampton Saints and he repeated the feat last weekend to ensure Munster’s qualification. Only two other players have score more tries in this season’s Heineken Cup.