The Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards, one of the biggest nights in Irish sport, will take place on Wednesday, May 16 at the Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge. The nominees were revealed today with Keith Earls, Tadhg Furlong, Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton battling it out for the Players’ Player of the Year honour.
In contention for the much sought-after Zurich Players’ Player of the Year award are four 2018 NatWest 6 Nations champions, Grand Slam winners, Champions Cup semi-finalists, and two Champions Cup finalists, who have all excelled for their provinces and country in an incredible year for Irish Rugby.
Keith Earls, Ireland’s fourth leading try scorer of all-time, has enjoyed a series of outstanding performances for both Munster and Ireland. Tadhg Furlong is nominated for the second year running after shining for the British & Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand and spearheading Ireland’s front row during the Six Nations.
Conor Murray, the current holder of the prestigious award, has had a scintillating year for the Lions, Munster and Ireland, with the scrum half adding goal-kicking and lineouts to his talents, while Jonathan Sexton’s year will be forever remembered for that last-gasp drop goal against France in Paris, reinforcing his reputation as Ireland’s talisman.
Commenting on the announcement marking Zurich’s third year sponsoring the Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards, Anthony Brennan, CEO of Zurich Ireland, said: “This year’s Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate what has been a superb year for Irish Rugby from winning the Grand Slam and having Leinster competing for the Champions Cup title to hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
“We in Zurich are hugely proud to support rugby in Ireland through a number of initiatives, including the ‘Tackle Your Feelings’ campaign. For us, these awards are about recognising individuals that have demonstrated an extraordinary contribution to the sport on the field and throughout their wider communities, underpinned by our sponsorship of the Zurich Contribution to Irish Society award which our Life MD, David O’Dowd, will present on the night.”
Keith Earls, one of the nominees, added: “It’s an honour to be nominated by my fellow players for the 2018 Zurich Players’ Player of the Year award, alongside my team-mates and friends. Tadhg, Conor and Johnny have had stand-out performances so I’m delighted to be there alongside them.
“Whilst it’s fantastic to be celebrating some fantastic moments this season like the Grand Slam, we’re conscious that we’ve got the closing stages of the GUINNESS PRO14 ahead – there’s still a lot to play for. To see so many exceptional young players shortlisted for the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year award really points to a strong future for Irish Rugby, and even bigger and better seasons ahead.”
The prestigious evening will honour a strong season for Irish Rugby, marked by the success of Irish sides in both domestic and European competitions, with one side competing in the final of the Champions Cup in May and a Grand Slam triumph for the first time since 2009. Eleven Irish players also featured for the British & Irish Lions in the historic drawn series in New Zealand.
Three of Ireland’s talented youngsters who are all NatWest 6 Nations and Grand Slam winners will contest the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year award – Jordan Larmour (Leinster), James Ryan (Leinster) and Jacob Stockdale (Ulster) – and three iconic try efforts will contest the Volkswagen Try of the Year award.
Following Ireland’s hosting of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup and the beginning of a new era under head coach Adam Griggs, several players have come into contention for the BNY Mellon Women’s 15s Player of the Year 2018 (as voted by the players involved over the last 12 months) – Katie Fitzhenry, captain Ciara Griffin and Claire Molloy. The Women’s Sevens Player of the Year will also be awarded on the night, and the nominees are Ashleigh Baxter, Stacey Flood and Lucy Mulhall.
The Vodafone Medal for Excellence will be awarded to the individual who has shown exceptional commitment to the game of rugby both on and off the field. Nominated this year by their peers are Duncan Casey (Grenoble), Jake Heenan (Connacht) and Rhys Ruddock (Leinster).
There will also be chance for members of the public to get involved by nominating their Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort Moment of the Year via Twitter @druidsglen, using #RugbyAwards18. Rugby fans across Ireland can choose the Mason Alexander Supporters’ Player of the Year which will be will be run through the Rugby Players Ireland website.
2018 ZURICH IRISH RUGBY PLAYERS AWARDS – NOMINATIONS LIST:
ZURICH PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
NEVIN SPENCE YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
VOLKSWAGEN TRY OF THE YEAR
Andrew Conway – Munster v Toulon (Champions Cup)
Jacob Stockdale – Ireland v Wales, first try (NatWest 6 Nations)
CJ Stander – Ireland v England (NatWest 6 Nations)
MASON ALEXANDER SUPPORTERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Voted by the public via www.rugbyplayersireland.ie
BNY MELLON WOMEN’S 15s PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Claire Molloy (Bristol)
WOMEN’S SEVENS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum)
DRUIDS GLEN HOTEL & GOLF RESORT MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Voted by the public on Twitter @druidsglen #RugbyAwards18, the Rugby Moment of the Year will be unveiled at the Awards ceremony on Wednesday, May 16
VODAFONE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE
Duncan Casey (Grenoble)
Jake Heenan (Connacht)
Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)