The ERC Player of the Season nominations were decided today.
The five contenders reflect the powerful performances of the French teams in the Heineken Cup and the fact that the pool in which Clermont Auvergne and Leinster collided was one of the toughest in the history of the competition.
As a member of the panel I am delighted to list some of the reasons for the selection of this superb quintet - I cannot speak for the rest of the ERC panel but I voted for three of the five and have no qualms with the democracy that sees two non-Barnes' nominations.
In the interest of solidarity, I will not disclose which three I nominated and the duo who missed out... though you can guess and write to Under The Posts if you like!
Anyway, without further ado and in no particular order, here are the five men selected...
Julian Bonnaire - Clermont Auvergne
The Clermont back-row man produced one of the finest back-row performances of the European season when the finalists dazzled Exeter in Devon. He just about held his nerve as stand-in captain against Munster, in the absence of Aurelien Rougerie.
Jamie Heaslip - Leinster
A blockbuster of a performance face to face with Imanol Harinordoquy in the Amlin semi-final was the highlight of a solid to strong series of games. In the semi-final last Saturday Heaslip showed all the old verve with a real cameo.
Sitiveni Sivivatu - Clermont Auvergne
He WAS on my list. Big, bruising and brilliant; no one is unstoppable but he has been pretty near it at times. A great rugby brain and a show stopping performer, yeah, I voted for the former All Black.
Wesley Fofana - Clermont Auvergne
Another Clermont man; no surprise working out who the star team of the tournament has been. He has gone toe to toe with Sivivatu as the most dangerous three quarter in the competition. Clermont may take the mantle of European champions from Leinster, Fofana is stealing the title of Europe's best centre from Brian O' Driscoll.
Jonny Wilkinson - Toulon
Two of the most nerveless displays of goal kicking imaginable has seen Toulon through to the final of the Heineken Cup. He did not miss a kick in either the quarter or semi-final and took on some monsters - especially against Leicester. The drop-goal to swat the Saracens at Twickenham was from another world. A big hit in the tackle and in the town, Wilkinson was hardly a surprise nominee.
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Michael Whyte says...
Well Said, Madigan has been Leinsters most improved and best player this year. Highest try scorer for the club, outstanding at 10 when sexton was out and recently delivered a monster of a performance at 12 in the two finals, Look at the hits he took in the rabo direct final and bounced off the ground every time and toped it off with a lovely try...should be a lion due to his versatility youth and prospect future tours..but should he be nominated? maybe just a bit late this year...he is pure class... as a Leinster fan sorry to see Johnny sexton go but salivating at the prospect of Madigan playing at 10 next season.. if he keeps growing in confidence and stature and can keep the speed he is going to be awesome. Jamie has been very solid all year and recent months on harder ground has suited him better. In the HC & the 6 nations this year it was a mud bath and that seemed to really affect Heaslip from getting the attacking side of his game going but he always beavered away, and always has top states for tackles and carries. If the ground is good in AUZ he should go really well for the lions. Somehow these nominations always seem more to do with longstanding names over absolute current form? O of Course JW won. by the way I was at the HC final in Aviva stadium and really wanted to watch JW & Co from Clermont to see them in the flesh watch there movement positional play all the stuff you cannot see on the TV but what makes them so great. JW was excellent from the placed ball kicks but otherwise it was a tired performance, not one bit surprised he didn't go with the lions in the second half you could see he struggled to get back to position on defence and attack. I was shocked to see he won Man of the match on the day and even more shocked he won player of the year! Great player, but well past his best. very easy to pick the guy who kicked the penalty but what about the guy over the ball that won it?
Posted 15:30 27th May 2013
David C says...
I am a Leinster fan and i think Jamie Heaslip was extremely lucky to make the Lions. He had one good game against an average Biarritz side and now he deserves an ERC Player of the Year nomination? Give me Sean O'Brien any day.....
Posted 20:34 15th May 2013
Adrian C says...
Stuart- its sad to see that the ERC has overlooked Munster here. They with not a very strong squad, forced their way through the pool stages and gatecrashed the Stoop! And nearly again in France, surely this group off Red men should have been mentioned?
Posted 10:48 6th May 2013
Landon Roose says...
Heaslip was excellent in a leinster team deprived of many key players during the first 4 rounds. Top carrier of the pool stages, making 66 tackles, missing none and he's called average.. Fully deserves to make the list, not a hope of winning it though. Fofana's by a great distance.
Posted 13:01 1st May 2013
Steve Eales says...
Stuart, Every time Alain Roland takes a game I despair. I know it is going to be a dire game dominated by his pedantic whistling. Interstingly Mark McCall after the game against Toulon made this observation "It would be interesting to see how many penalties were given away by the attacking team, It seemed to be an extraordinary amount" Yes he may be right in his strict interpretation but contrast his display with Nigel Owens sympathetic and attack favouring display in the other game. Every time he referees I eventually give up watching because he dominates the game not the players. Isn't about time he was pensioned off?
Posted 12:41 30th April 2013
Max Ramia says...
Heaslip is a shocker!! He was great against biarritz but was average every match before! If any Leinsterman should be on that list its Ian Madigan. But on a serious note where are Parra and Armitage?
Posted 17:46 29th April 2013
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