The International Rugby Board has announced the shortlist of nominees for the IRB Player of the Year 2011 Award in association with Emirates Airline.
The winner of the prestigious individual accolade will be announced at the IRB Awards ceremony at Vector Arena in Auckland on Monday, October 24, a day after the Rugby World Cup 2011 champions are crowned.
Four of the nominees are in the Rugby World Cup 2011 Final at Eden Park on Sunday with France captain Thierry Dusautoir joined by the New Zealand trio of scrum half Piri Weepu, flanker Jerome Kaino and centre Ma’a Nonu.
The other two nominees are Australia's flanker David Pocock and scrum half Will Genia, who will both play against Wales in the Bronze Final on Friday. Pocock has been nominated for the second year in a row, having missed out to New Zealand captain Richie McCaw in 2010.
“The IRB Player of the Year Award is the ultimate accolade for a player to receive in his career. It takes on added significance in a Rugby World Cup year and takes into account player performances in all major internationals, including matches in the RBS 6 Nations and Tri Nations,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“The list of past winners of this prestigious award is very impressive and comprises players of the calibre of Schalk Burger, Dan Carter, Jonny Wilkinson, Bryan Habana, Shane Williams and Richie McCaw, the only player to have received the coveted award on more than one occasion.”
The IRB Player of the Year nominees were selected by the IRB Awards independent panel of judges, which is chaired by Australia’s RWC 1999 winning captain John Eales and is made up of former internationals with more than 500 caps and four Rugby World Cup winners’ medals between them.
The IRB Awards panel comprises some of the biggest names in the Game with Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace having deliberated on every major Test played in 2011, starting with the opening RBS 6 Nations match and culminating with the RWC Final.
In total the panel have watched more than 100 hours of action, awarding points to the three players they thought stood out in each match. In order to recognise the importance of Rugby World Cup matches in determining the Player of the Year, an additional weighting has been applied to matches in the Tournament.
“This has been one of the closest years to date. In fact the result could be influenced significantly by the next two matches and that’s what it should be like in a World Cup year," said panel chairman Eales.
The IRB Player of the Year is one of 12 Awards that will be presented at the star-studded ceremony at Vector Arena, the others including the IRB Coach of the Year, IRB Team of the Year, IRB Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC, IRB Junior Player of the Year and IRB Women’s Personality of the Year.
Previous winners of the IRB Player of the Year Award:
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)