Rugby

Five shortlisted for top Euro award

2015-04-23 12:25
Nick Abendanon (File)

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

Nick Abendanon

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 stats categories.

Steffon Armitage

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.

Jamie Heaslip

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.

Fritz Lee

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.

Billy Vunipola

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 tournament.

Judging Panel:

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 (beIN Sports)

Previous winners:

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

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