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Heaslip Nominated For ERC Player Award

Heaslip Nominated For ERC Player Award

It is down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in northern Hemisphere rugby – ERC European Player of the Year for 2013.

Following the decision of the judges to nominate the in-form quintet of Julien Bonnaire, Wesley Fofana and Sitiveni Sivivatu – all from Clermont Auvergne – as well as Leinster’s Jamie Heaslip and Jonny Wilkinson of Toulon, the award winner will be announced shortly after the conclusion of this weekend’s Dublin 2013 finals.

The successful player will follow in the illustrious footsteps of the Leinster pair of Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien – winners in 2012 and 2011 respectively – while Munster’s Ronan O’Gara was the inaugural recipient of the honour as the leading player over the first 15 years of both tournaments.

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The start of the search to select Kearney’s successor was based on player performances during the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup and a longlist of 15 players which was announced in January.

The judges then had the option to consider players who made major contributions during the quarter-finals and semi-finals of both tournaments and on that basis, Heaslip, Sivivatu and Wilkinson forced their way into the shortlist.

Heaslip was a key figure in Leinster’s storming run to the Amlin Challenge Cup title, while Sivivatu has been in irresistible form during Clermont push to today’s Heineken Cup decider.

As for the durable Wilkinson, he has been the undoubted inspiration behind Toulon’s drive for a first European title both with the legendary accuracy of his goal-kicking and his tactical acumen.

In addition to the decision of the judging panel, the 44 teams in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup have had the opportunity to vote for contenders nominated on the shortlist, while supporters have been having their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2013, as well as on the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup Facebook pages.


Julien Bonnaire
Team: Clermont Auvergne
Age: 34
Position: Back rower
Country: France (75 caps)
Heineken Cup caps: 57
Amlin Challenge Cup caps: 5
2012/13: Plated 8, Points 10 (2 tries)

Inspirational leader during Clermont’s drive to a first Heineken Cup final. Superb all-round forward who has been consistency personified this season with a string of outstanding performances.

Wesley Fofana
Team: Clermont Auvergne
Age: 25
Position: Centre
Country: France (15 caps)
Heineken Cup caps: 22
2012/13: Played 7, Points 25 (5 tries)

If Bonnaire has been the stabilising influence, Fofana has once again proved to be Clermont’s razor-sharp cutting edge. Moved to the wing by France, but a constant threat in his best position of centre for Clermont with five tries to his name in the current campaign.

Jamie Heaslip
Team: Leinster
Age: 29
Position: Number 8
Country: Ireland (57 caps)
Heineken Cup caps: 59
Amlin Challenge Cup caps: 3
2012/13: Played 9, Points 15 (3 tries)

Extremely solid, if unspectacular, in the early stage of Leinster’s European campaign, Heaslip has exploded into peak form in the knockout phase of the Amlin Challenge Cup with stand-out displays against both London Wasps and Biarritz, and he captained Leinster to the title in Friday’s 34-13 final win over Stade Francais.

Sitiveni Sivivatu
Team: Clermont Auvergne
Age: 31
Position: Winger
Country: New Zealand (45 caps)
Heineken Cup caps: 13
2012/13: Played 7, Points 15 (3 tries)

An inspired signing by Clermont, Sivivatu might have been overshadowed by the brilliance of Fofana in the pool stages, but he has been devastating in the knockout games, producing moments of breathtaking class particularly in the quarter-final win over Montpellier.

Jonny Wilkinson
Team: Toulon
Age: 33
Position: Out-half
Country: England (91 caps)
Heineken Cup caps: 20
Amlin Challenge Cup caps: 37
2012/13: Played 8 , Points 97 (25 penalties, 2 drop goals and 8 conversions)

Toulon are more than a one-man band but Wilkinson undoubtedly wields the conductor’s baton. Approaching 100 points for the Heineken Cup season, he was responsible for all of his team’s 45 points in the knockout games to date. Playing some of the best rugby of his career.

ERC Panel of Judges –

Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Will Greenwood (Daily Telegraph, World Cup winner and two-time Challenge Cup winner), Stephen Jones (Rugby Correspondent, Sunday Times), Jacques Verdier (Director, Midi Olympique) and Gerry Thornley (Rugby Correspondent, Irish Times).