Five players from the Irish provinces amongst the early contenders for European Player of the Year
Two players from Leinster, two from Munster and the consistently brilliant Ruan Pienaar are amongst 14 players on the longlist for the European Player of the Year 2014.
Leinster duo Cian Healy and Sean Cronin and Munster captains past and present Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony have all been included alongside Pienaar in a list of 14 players nominated for the award on the basis of their performances in the pool stages of the Heineken Cup.
Healy and Cronin will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Leinster and Ireland teammates Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien, who won the prestigious award in 2011 and 2012 respectively, while Jonny Wilkinson, who won it last year, is nominated again this time around.
The Judging Panel, which includes Gerry Thornley in a group of rugby media commentators and former players, will also have the option to consider additional players who make major contributions during the knockout stages of both tournaments before announcing a five-man shortlist following the semi-finals with the overall winner named directly after the ERC European club finals in Cardiff in May.
In addition to the decision of the panel, the 44 clubs in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup will have the opportunity to vote for contenders nominated on the ERC European Player of the Year 2014 shortlist while supporters can also have their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2014, and on the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup Facebook pages.
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)