Elite players from seven different teams, including Leinster, Munster and Ulster, and all three European professional leagues are among the 15 nominees for the prestigious EPCR European Player of the Year award.
Last season’s winner Leone Nakarawa, who played a key role in Racing 92’s qualification for the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals in March, is nominated once again along with two of his team-mates, Finn Russell and Simon Zebo.
The last-eight’s number one seeds Saracens have two representatives in Alex Goode and Mako Vunipola following their 100% record in the pool stages, while Toulouse flyer Cheslin Kolbe and his team-mate Antoine Dupont are also included.
Edinburgh back rower Viliame Mata’s impressive form has earned him a nomination, and defending champions Leinster have three players – joint-top try scorer Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong and Garry Ringrose – on the longlist, along with Ulster’s try machine Jacob Stockdale who is level on six tries with Cronin.
Munster, who have booked a quarter-final trip to Edinburgh, are able to match Leinster’s representation with the consistently excellent Tadhg Beirne, Joey Carbery, the tournament top scorer so far with 68 points, and talismanic captain Peter O’Mahony making the list.
The winner of one of the most prized individual accolades in the world game will receive a specially struck gold medal as well as the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy.
Voting for the award is now open at www.epcrugby.com/epoty and fans will be in the running to win two VIP tickets to the Champions Cup final in Newcastle next May with one night’s accommodation courtesy of EPCR, and a signed jersey of one of the Heineken Champions Cup finalists.
The list will be reduced to five players in April, following the Champions Cup semi-finals, by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included in initial list of 15, but who make a significant impact in a quarter-final or semi-final match, can be considered for the shortlist.
The voting will then be reopened and the winner of the 2019 award will be announced following the Champions Cup decider at St James’ Park on Saturday, May 11.
2019 EPCR EUROPEAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
Tadhg Beirne (MUNSTER)
Joey Carbery (MUNSTER)
Sean Cronin (LEINSTER)
Antoine Dupont (Toulouse)
Tadhg Furlong (LEINSTER)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse)
Viliame Mata (Edinburgh)
Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92)
Peter O’Mahony (MUNSTER)
Garry Ringrose (LEINSTER)
Finn Russell (Racing 92)
Jacob Stockdale (ULSTER)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Simon Zebo (Racing 92)
Judging Panel: Bryan Habana (Channel 4), Chris Jones (BBC Radio 5 Live), Matthieu Lartot (France Télévisions), Emmanuel Massicard (Midi Olympique), Brian O’Driscoll (BT Sport), Dimitri Yachvili (beIN Sports)
Previous Winners – 2018: Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92); 2017: Owen Farrell (Saracens); 2016: Maro Itoje (Saracens); 2015: Nick Abendanon (Clermont Auvergne); 2014: Steffon Armitage (Toulon); 2013: Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon); 2012: Rob Kearney (LEINSTER); 2011: Sean O’Brien (LEINSTER); 2010: Ronan O’Gara (MUNSTER) (best player of first 15 years of European professional club competitions)