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Four Irishmen included on longlist for ERC European Player of the Year

Two Munster men, two Leinster forwards and Ulster’s South African maestro have made the first cut.

Don't worry, Paulie's on the list.
Don't worry, Paulie's on the list.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THE ERC [EUROPEAN Rugby Cup] has announced the longlist for the ERC European Player of the Year award following the conclusion of the pool stages of the Heineken Cup.

There are four Irishmen amongst the selected names, in Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony, while Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar is unsurprisingly included too.

Three players from reigning champions Toulon have been recognised for their strong individual performances, last year’s winner Jonny Wilkinson among them, while Clermont have two of their most important men involved.

Recognition of Cronin’s form for Leinster is welcome as he heads into the Six Nations to compete with Rory Best for Ireland’s number two shirt. The Limerick man has improved his line-out throwing up to an 86% success rate in Europe, while his work around the pitch is as impressive as ever.

Healy’s explosive return to the starting team for Leinster against the Ospreys surely played a part in his nomination, and the Ireland loosehead looks set to finish out the season in superb form now. Both O’Connell and O’Mahony have been excellent in helping Munster to five wins from six games in Pool 6.

The judging panel of Stuart Barnes [Sky Sports], Mick Cleary [Daily Telegraph rugby correspondent], Emmanuel Massicard [editor of Midi Olympique], Emile Ntamack [three-time Heineken Cup winner] and Gerry Thornley [Irish Times rugby correspondent] were responsible for compiling this initial list, with the eventual winner to be named following the Heineken Cup final in May.

As well as the above panel of esteemed judges, all 44 clubs involved in the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup this season will have the chance to vote in the award, while supporters will be able to get involved on Twitter and Facebook.

ERC European Player of the Year 2014 longlist:

  • Steffon Armitage (Toulon)
  • Miles Benjamin (Leicester Tigers)
  • Sean Cronin (Leinster Rugby)
  • Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse)
  • Matt Giteau (Toulon)
  • Alex Goode (Saracens)
  • Cian Healy (Leinster Rugby)
  • Fritz Lee (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
  • George North (Northampton Saints)
  • Paul O’Connell (Munster Rugby)
  • Peter O’Mahony (Munster Rugby)
  • Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)
  • Ruan Pienaar (Ulster Rugby)
  • Sitiveni Sivivatu (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
  • Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon)

Who’s your early favourite for the award? Are there any players missing from the ERC’s list?

- Originally posted 17.30

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Murray Kinsella

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