Johnny Sexton could become the first Irishman in 17 years to be crowned World Rugby Player of the Year after he was nominated as the only northern hemisphere player on the shortlist.
Sexton has been listed alongside Beauden Barrett (New Zealand), Faf de Klerk (South Africa), Rieko Ioane (New Zealand) and Malcolm Marx (South Africa) after a stellar year which included winning the Six Nations with Ireland.
The shortlist was selected by a panel made up of Rugby World Cup winners Richie McCaw, John Smit, George Gregan, Maggie Alphonsi and former England coach Clive Woodward alongside Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, Fabien Galthié and Agustín Pichot.
Fans and media have had the chance to give their vote to who they believe to be most deserving of the award and now international captains and coaches will join the panel for one final vote to determine the winner.
Sexton is the oldest of the nominees at the age of 33. The Leinster kicker helped Ireland climb up to second in the world rankings and also claim a first series win over Australia in 39 years.
However, perhaps the standout moment for Sexton was his last minute drop goal to give Ireland a dramatic win in their opening Six Nations match away to France, setting in motion the journey to Grand Slam glory.
If Sexton is to win the award and become the first Irishman since Keith Wood in 2001 to do so he will have to beat some stiff opposition which includes All Black Beauden Barrett who is gunning for the title for a third year in a row.
Barrett has scored seven tries in his eight tests in 2018, six of them in the Bledisloe Cup series against Australia, including a record four amid a 30-point haul at Eden Park and will most likely lineup against Sexton later this month when Ireland meet New Zealand in Dublin.
De Klerk and Marx are the two Springbok nominees after they helped Rassie Erasmus’ side to pull themselves back towards the top of world rugby while All Black Ioane is the youngest nominee at 21.
The award will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo on November 25th, along with the women’s award for which the nominees are: Pauline Bourdon (France), Fiao’o Faamausili (New Zealand), Gaëlle Hermet (France), Safi N’Diaye (France) and Jessy Trémoulière (France).
Previous World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year Award winners:
2017 - Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
2016 - Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
2015 - Dan Carter (New Zealand)
2014 - Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
2013 - Kieran Read (New Zealand)
2012 - Dan Carter (New Zealand)
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)
Previous World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year Award winners:
2017 - Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
2016 - Sarah Hunter (England)
2015 - Kendra Cocksedge (New Zealand)
2014 - Magali Harvey (Canada)
2012 - Michaela Staniford (England)
2011 - Ruth Mitchell
2010 - Carla Hohepa (New Zealand)
2009 - Debby Hodgkinson (Australia)
2008 - Carol Isherwood (England)
2007 - Sarah Corrigan (Australia)
2006 - Maggie Alphonsi (England)
2005 - Farah Palmer (New Zealand)
2004 - Donna Kennedy (Scotland)
2003 - Kathy Flores (USA)
2002 - Monique Hirovanaa (New Zealand)
2001 - Shelley Rae (England)