Representatives of the elite clubs which have qualified for this season’s Champions Cup semi-finals not surprisingly dominate the list of 15 nominees for the prestigious EPCR European Player of the Year 2021 award.
La Rochelle, who have booked a place in the semi-finals for the first time in their history, have clearly impressed the expert panel of judges as five of their in-form players, Grégory Alldritt, Levani Botia, Kevin Gourdon, Raymond Rhule and tournament winner, Will Skelton, have been nominated.
Leinster Rugby, meanwhile, have four players – Tadhg Furlong, Robbie Henshaw, Hugo Keenan and Josh van der Flier – on the prestigious list while Toulouse also have four nominees in Antoine Dupont, Jerome Kaino, Julien Marchand and Romain Ntamack
With players from as many as seven countries – Australia, Fiji, France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa - getting the initial vote of the judges, Matthieu Jalibert of Bordeaux-Bègles and ASM Clermont Auvergne’s Kotaro Matsushima complete the star-studded longlist following their outstanding performances to date.
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 which is in its 11th season is now open HERE and fans will be in the running to win a signed ball and a signed jersey of one of the Champions Cup finalist clubs.
The list will be reduced to five players in early May, following the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup semi-finals, by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included in the initial list of 15, but who make a significant impact in a semi-final match, may be considered for the shortlist.
The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2021 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final on Saturday, 22 May.
EPCR European Player of the Year 2021 award nominees
Grégory ALLDRITT (La Rochelle)
Levani BOTIA (La Rochelle)
Antoine DUPONT (Toulouse)
Tadhg FURLONG (Leinster Rugby)
Kevin GOURDON (La Rochelle)
Robbie HENSHAW (Leinster Rugby)
Matthieu JALIBERT (Bordeaux-Bègles)
Jerome KAINO (Toulouse)
Hugo KEENAN (Leinster Rugby)
Julien MARCHAND (Toulouse)
Kotaro MATSUSHIMA (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Romain NTAMACK (Toulouse)
Raymond RHULE (La Rochelle)
Will SKELTON (La Rochelle)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby)
Judging Panel - Erik Bonneval (beIN SPORTS), Bryan Habana (Channel 4), Sonja McLaughlan (BBC Radio 5 Live), Alan Quinlan (Virgin Media), Dimitri Yachvili (France Télévisions)
Roll of Honour – 2020 Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs); 2019 Alex Goode (Saracens); 2018 Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92); 2017 Owen Farrell (Saracens); 2016 Maro Itoje (Saracens); 2015 Nick Abendanon (ASM Clermont Auvergne); 2014 Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon); 2013 Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon); 2012 Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby); 2011 Sean O'Brien (Leinster Rugby); 2010 Ronan O'Gara (Munster Rugby – best player of first 15 years of European professional club competitions)