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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Early contenders named for ERC European Player of the Year 2013 - Formguide

Following the conclusion of the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, ERC, the governing body of European rugby's two tournaments, announced the longlist for the prestigious ERC European Players of the Year 2013 award.

Selected by a distinguished panel of rugby experts, the longlist for one of the most prized individual accolades in the game includes 15 outstanding players from the 44 participating clubs.

The Judging Panel for this season’s award is: Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Will Greenwood (Daily Telegraph, World Cup winner and Challenge Cup winner), Stephen Jones (Sunday Times), Emmanuel Massicard Midi Olympique) and Gerry Thornley (Irish Times).

Below is a formguide for each player, based on performances in the pool stages.

ERC European Player of the Year 2013 Longlist Formguide

Steffon Armitage (Toulon) – Since his move to Toulon has developed into one of the most feared opensides in the European game. Hugely impressive in the Cote d’Azur club’s run to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and appeared in all six pool matches making four try assists, the joint highest in the tournament.

Rory Best
(Ulster) – The heartbeat of Ulster who are looking to go one better than last season in the Heineken Cup. Intelligent, combative and consistent. Quite simply one of the most complete hookers in rugby. Only two other hookers have delivered more successful lineout throws than Best (64) this season.

Julien Bonnaire
(ASM Clermont) – Still one of Europe’s most outstanding back rows at the age of 34. May be retired from international rugby, but has been brilliant in a series of strong Clermont pool stage performances. He made 69 tackles this season, only three other men have made more.

Mike Brown
(Harlequins) –  A rock under the high ball and dynamic going forward in all six pool games featuring among the top ten metre makers. Brown has been superb yet again as unbeaten Harlequins target another European title.

Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) - Central cog of the Tigers' powerful forward force in the Pool stage having locked down the number 3 jersey in a very competitive squad.  Completed 29/33 tackles in the campaign to date.

Owen Farrell (Saracens) – Mature way beyond his years at 21, Farrell has been a key figure yet again this season for Saracens and his magnificent haul of 10 penalties in the vital away Round 5 game against Racing Metro is now a tournament record. Kicked 25 goals in the pool stages and was the second top points scorer (75).

Wesley Fofana (ASM Clermont) – The coming midfield player in world rugby. Blessed with outrageous acceleration, Fofana picks some glorious lines as part of a hugely talented Clermont back division.  Four tries in five pool appearances and leading player in the Amlin Opta Index pre Round 6.

Mamuka Gorgodze (Montpellier) – Quite literally a massive influence on Montpellier’s advance to the last eight of the Heineken Cup this season. Muscular and painfully direct, Gorgodze appeared in five pool matches and contributed 15 points.

Charlie Hodgson (Saracens) – Cerebral playmaker at No 10. A shrewd tactician with an eye for the gap, he has contributed 45 points in the pool stage including two tries and four try assists.

James Johnston (Harlequins) – Under Harlequins’ expert guidance, the Samoan international has become a top-class tight head.  The immovable object in the Pool 3 winners’ scrum, Johnston played in five Heineken Cup games this season.

Joe Launchbury (London Wasps) – One of the rising stars in Europe, Launchbury’s outstanding form for England last autumn has been replicated during London Wasps’ progress into the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

Morgan Parra (ASM Clermont) – The conductor of Clermont’s pitch-perfect orchestra. Calls the shots for his side in the tradition of dominant French No 9s and the leading scorer in the Heineken Cup pool stage with 90 points from six matches.

Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers ) – Leicester Tigers have produced a number of half-decent second rows in their history, and Parling now fully deserves a mention among the best. Impressive organiser, strong line-out presence and an ever-present in the Heineken Cup this season. Took 34 lineout catches in the pool stages, more than any other player.

Ruan Pienaar (Ulster) – There are few half-backs in world rugby who appear to have as much time as the talented South African. More effective at No 10 than scrum half, he has been superb in every facet for Ulster. Only four players produced more kicks in play than Pienaar (56) in the pool stage.

Simon Zebo (Munster) – A coiled spring of exuberant talent. The hugely promising Zebo made his European mark last season with a hat-trick in Round 6 of the Heineken Cup against Northampton Saints and he repeated the feat last weekend to ensure Munster’s qualification. Only two other players have scored more tries in the Heineken Cup.

What are your thoughts on the list, and who would you pick at this stage?

Posted at 1:31 pm | 8 comments

Viewing 8 comments

ghogan8 January 24, 2013 5:00 pm

I am a Leinster fan but I do need to point out Cian Healy. He has been one of the highest workers in the competition and has been very effective in the scrum. If Dan Cole is in then so should Healy

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pistolpete January 24, 2013 5:04 pm

Fofana and Pienaar make absolute sense to me. the others, i'm not so sure.

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Not-an-Ospreys-fan January 24, 2013 5:25 pm

No mention of Kahn Fotuali'i? Potentially the most dangerous 9 in the competiton in my opinion. Whilst on the Ospreys topic, what about Eli Walker? Scores for fun!

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Ottawa Rugger January 24, 2013 5:32 pm

I'm gonna have to go Fofana on this one. I've seen him score tries, create tries for others, work around the park, and just generally be an all around great centre. Farrell has a pretty good claim too, especially after his tally against Racing Metro and that sneaky cross-kick to Ashton.

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proptank January 24, 2013 5:37 pm

fofana or armitage for me. also nathan hines has been outstanding - rolling back the years.

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smithy-at-wasps January 24, 2013 5:47 pm

I think its a tough call Steffon has been doing amazingly, Fofana is just ridiculous but im going to be biased and say Joe launchbury he is playing amazingly well and definitely deserves to be there

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BackRowBulldozer January 24, 2013 5:53 pm

For Me it has to be owen Farrell or Armitage... Fofana is an awesome talent but Farrell is the X factor the saries are clearly benefitting greatly from... also the most physical 10 in defence that Ive seen in europe since Wilko...
As for Armitage.. its an absolute joke that he hasnt been selected to the english elite squad, most complete and dangerous 7 in europe on offence and defence.

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Ben Macklin January 24, 2013 6:25 pm

I have to say Jo Launchbury. He was outstanding in the Autumn Internationals and has been impressive in the Amlin Challenge Cup. Strong in the line-out and dynamic in open play. Truly a rising star.

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