Cape Town - Players
from the Champions Cup finalists, Clermont and Toulon, who clash at
Twickenham Stadium on Saturday week, are in the running for the EPCR
European Player of the Year 2015 award following the announcement of the
shortlist of contenders.
The Clermont pair of Nick Abendanon and Fritz Lee, as well as last
season's winner, Toulon's Steffon Armitage, are vying for the coveted
accolade along with the Leinster captain, Jamie Heaslip, and Billy
Vunipola of Saracens.
The judging panel selected a longlist of 15 players based on
performances during the pool stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge
and that list has now been reduced to five players following the
quarter-finals and semi-finals weekends.
In addition to the decision of the judges, the 40 clubs in the
Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup will have the opportunity to vote
for the shortlist contender while supporters can also have their say on
Twitter using #EPCRPlayer2015, and on the tournament Facebook pages.
The winner will be announced after the Champions Cup final.
EPCR European Player of the Year 2015 shortlist
Has been in outstanding form for Clermont during their impressive run
to another European final. Sparkling in attack, secure under the high
ball, and also in the top three performers in the Most Carries, Most
Metres Gained, Most Clean Breaks and Most Defenders Beaten tournament
Last season's winner of the European Player of the Year award has
again proved himself as one of Europe's most dynamic and effective back
rows. A hat-trick of tries in Round 5 against Ulster and leading the way
on turnovers won with 19 for the Champions Cup season to date.
Ever-present during Leinster's push to the Marseille semi-final where
they went close to upsetting Toulon's dream of three titles in-a-row,
Heaslip led his side with some strong ball-carrying (No 1 in the
tournament stats) and uncompromising defence.
A revelation this season, Lee was at the heart of some of Clermont's
very best performances this season most notably the wins over Munster in
Limerick and against Northampton in the quarter-final. Missed the
semi-final due to a hamstring injury.
Hard to believe that one of Saracens' go-to players is still only 22.
A highly destructive ball-carrier with plenty of room for improvement
which is a scary thought for defences in European club rugby's elite
Emmanuel Massicard (Editor, Midi Olympique), Stuart Barnes (Sky
Sports/The Sunday Times), Alan Quinlan (Sky Sports/The Irish Times),
Mick Cleary (Rugby Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph), Dimitri Yachvili
Ronan O'Gara (Munster Rugby - best player of first 15 years of European
club rugby tournaments); Sean O'Brien (Leinster Rugby) 2011; Rob Kearney
(Leinster Rugby) 2012; Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon) 2013; Steffon
Armitage (RC Toulon) 2014