Outhalves join McCaw on IRB shortlist
Rugby: The ubiquitous New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has been joined on the shortlist for the prestigious International Rugby Board player of the year award, by fellow All Black Dan Carter, England's Owen Farrell and France's Frederic Michalak.
McCaw is a three-time winner (2010, 2009 and 2006), while outhalf Carter claimed the prize in 2005, but the selection is likely to be a controversial one.
Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Wales flanker Dan Lydiate — last season’s Six Nations player of the tournament — Australia backrow star David Pocock and All Blacks number eight Kieran Read, might all have had a case for inclusion.
Wales, despite being 2011 World Cup semi-finalists and 2012 Six Nations champions, have not had a player nominated for the second successive year.
Farrell, the 21-year-old son of England assistant coach Andy Farrell, is expected to replace an injured Toby Flood against New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday. It will be his first Test match start since losing his place to Flood during last summer’s South Africa tour.
Michalak returned to the French team this year, after an absence of more than two years, and was prominent in the wins over Argentina (twice), Australia and Samoa that secured top-four status ahead of the RWC 2015 pool draw.
Hooker Keith Wood is the only Irishman to have won the award, in the inagural year of 2001.
The winner will be announced at Monday’s World Cup draw in London, together with IRB coach of the year and team of the year.
The panel of judges comprised Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphael Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustin Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace, under Australian World Cup-winning captain John Eales’s chairmanship.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “As ever, the competition has been fierce and the panel had a tough time deliberating the shortlist from a number of stand-out candidates. All four players on the shortlist thoroughly deserve their place after stand-out performances during the year and consistency in the tough environment that is Test rugby.”
Selection panel chairman and former Australian World Cup winner John Eales added:: “This has been one of the closest years to date. In fact the result could be influenced significantly by this weekend’s matches, making it a highly contested prize.”
2011– Thierry Dusautoir (France)
2010– Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2009– Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2008– Shane Williams (Wales)
2007– Bryan Habana (South Africa)
2006– Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2005– Dan Carter (New Zealand)
2004– Schalk Burger (South Africa)
2003– Jonny Wilkinson (England)
2002– Fabien Galthié (France)
2001 – Keith Wood (Ireland)