EUROPEAN RUGBY’S MOST prestigious individual prize could be staying on these shores after three Irish internationals were nominated for this year’s ERC European Rugby Player of the Year award.
Ronan O’Gara, Jonny Sexton and Stephen Ferris have all been named on the 15-man longlist to succeed Sean O’Brien, which was announced by the ERC this afternoon.
The longlist, which recognises players’ contributions in the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, will be whittled down to a final five after the semi-final weekend with the winner due to be announced following the finals.
Winner of the inaugural award in 2010, O’Gara is nominated again after adding another 91 points to his record tally in the pool stages of this season’s Heineken Cup, including back-to-back drop goals to seal last-minute victories for Munster in the first two weeks of the tournament.
Sexton, who played a starring role in Leinster’s wins against Bath, finished the pool stages with 63 points from five starts. Ferris was twice named as man of the match for his performances in the Ulster pack, and got himself on the scoresheet with a try in the win away to Aironi.
Reigning IRB World Player of the Year Thierry Dusautoir is one of four players based in France to make it onto the longlist, with four from England and two apiece from Wales and Scotland also receiving nominations.
The judging panel for the award is: Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Raphael Ibanez (Heineken Cup Ambassador), Stephen Jones (Sunday Times), Emmanuel Massicard (Midi Olympique) and Gerry Thornley (Irish Times).
ERC European Player of the Year 2012 – longlist
- Mouritz Botha (Saracens, lock)
- Mike Brown (Harlequins, full back)
- Antoine Claassen (Brive, back row)
- Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse, back row)
- Owen Farrell (Saracens, out half)
- Stephen Ferris (Ulster, back row)
- Wesley Fofana (ASM Clermont Auvergne, centre)
- Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues, prop)
- Jonny Sexton (Leinster, out-half)
- Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh, scrum-half/out-half)
- Timoci Matanavou (Toulouse, wing)
- Ignacio Mieres (Exeter Chiefs, out-half)
- Ben Morgan (Scarlets, number eight)
- Ronan O’Gara (Munster, out-half)
- Netani Talei (Edinburgh, number eight)