Zebo and Best on ERC longlist
Rugby:Two Ireland internationals have been included on the longlist for the 2013 ERC European player of the year.
Ulster hooker Rory Best and Munster winger Simon Zebo are among 15 players named after the pool stages of the both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Best’s Ulster team-mate and South African halfback Ruan Pienaar has also been nominated.
In total, seven of the 15 ply their trade in the Aviva Premiership, reflecting the fact three of the eight quarter-finalists – pool winners Harlequins, Saracens and Leicester - come from the English league.
While seven nominees are English, one of those, Delon Armitage plays for Toulon, while top seeds Harlequins are represented by fullback Mike Brown and Samoan prop James Johnston.
Clermont Auvergne’s French trio of Julien Bonnaire, Wesley Fofana and Morgan Parra are included, after they helped dump Leinster out of the Heineken Cup with back-to-back pool wins over the holders, as is Montpellier’s giant Georgian backrow Mamuka Gorgodze.
Fofana, Brown, Owen Farrell of Saracens and Pienaar, each made last year’s longlist for an award eventually won by Leinster and Ireland fullback Rob Kearney.
The judging panel - Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Will Greenwood (Daily Telegraph, World Cup winner and two-time Challenge Cup winner), Stephen Jones (Rugby Correspondent, Sunday Times), Emmanuel Massicard (Editor, Midi Olympique) and Gerry Thornley (Rugby Correspondent, Irish Times) – will be permitted to consider players who make major contributions during the knockout stages for the five-man shortlist following the semi-finals.
The overall winner will be named directly after the ERC European club finals in Dublin next May.
“In addition to the decision of the panel, the 44 clubs involved in both competitions will have a vote, while supporters can have their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2013, and on the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup Facebook pages,” according to the ERC.
ERC European Player of the Year 2013 Longlist (based on performances in the pool stages)
Steffon Armitage (Toulon)
Rory Best (Ulster Rugby)
Julien Bonnaire (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
Wesley Fofana (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Mamuka Gorgodze (Montpellier)
Charlie Hodgson ((Saracens)
James Johnston (Harlequins)
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Morgan Parra (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
Ruan Pienaar (Ulster Rugby)
Simon Zebo (Munster Rugby)