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Longlist announced for EPCR European Player of the Year 2015

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After a thrilling end to the pool stages of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup last weekend, the longlist has been announced for the EPCR European Player of the Year 2015 award.

The winner will be selected by a distinguished panel of rugby experts including European Cup winner Alan Quinlan, and Challenge Cup winner Dimitri Yachvili.

The award is one of the most-prized individual accolades in the world game, and the longlist includes 15 players who have performed outstandingly during the 2014/15 season to date.

Some of Aviva Premiership Rugby’s biggest stars are recognised, including Northampton Saints’ George North and Saracens’ prolific try-scorer, Chris Ashton, who made last season’s five-man shortlist. Last season's winner, Steffon Armitage of RC Toulon, is also nominated once again.

Clermont, who will clash with Saints in the Champions Cup quarter-final in April, have four players in the list, while No. 1 seeds for the knockout stage, Racing Metro 92, have three nominations.

Leinster Rugby, Saracens and Toulon have two apiece with one each for Bath Rugby and Northampton.

The judges can consider any other players who make major contributions during the knockout stages in both European competitions, before a five-man shortlist is announced following the semi-finals.

In addition to the judges, the 40 clubs competing in Europe’s top two competitions will also vote for contenders in the eventual shortlist, before the winner is announced directly after the EPCR's finals in London in May.

Supporters can also have their say on Twitter using #EPCRPlayer2015, and on the tournament Facebook pages.

EPCR European Player of the Year 2015 longlist:

Nick Abendanon (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon)
Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Jamie Heaslip (Leinster Rugby)
Juan Imhoff (Racing Metro 92)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Fritz Lee (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Camille Lopez (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Ian Madigan (Leinster Rugby)
George North (Northampton Saints)
Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro 92)
Aurélien Rougerie (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Nicolas Sanchez (RC Toulon)
Dimitri Szarzewski (Racing Metro 92)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)

Pool Stage Form-guide

Nick Abendanon – rejuvenated following his move to France. Some brilliant counter-attacking during the pool stage and top of the Metres Made stats with 571.

Steffon Armitage – With the luxury of a gargantuan pack around him, Europe's turnover king has once again ruled the pool stage. He heads the Turnovers stats on 15 and has scored four tries into the bargain.

Chris Ashton – Last season's top try scorer in Europe, Ashton has once again been in razor sharp form crossing four times in Saracens' push to the quarter-finals.

Jamie Heaslip – The ultimate leader by example. The Leinster captain made an impressive 83 carries in his six pool games and only the evergreen Nick Easter of Harlequins made more.

Juan Imhoff – The electric Argentine wing was Racing's key strike runner in their impressive pool stage performance scoring five tries in five outings for the No 1 seeds.

Jonathan Joseph – Caught the eye in a sparkling Bath back division and was simply magnificent in the key away victory over Toulouse in Round 5.

Fritz Lee – Every side needs a go-forward merchant and No 8 Lee consistently makes the hard yards for Clermont. Was at the heart of the French club's defining Round 3 victory over Munster at Thomond Park.

Camille Lopez – If Clermont go all the way this season, Lopez will have made the difference. Intelligent game management and a solid place kicker, he has been unquestionably Europe's leading out half during the pool stage.

Ian Madigan – Top scorer in the Champions Cup to date with 80 points, Madigan may not yet be the finished article, but some of his attacking play this season has been sensational.

George North – The prototype modern back-three player. A threat from just about anywhere on the pitch and top of the Defenders Beaten stats with 24 from five games. Also a mere seven tries including four against the Ospreys in Round 2.

Jamie Roberts – Back to his direct, powerful best in the latter part of the pool stage and was outstanding for Racing in the Round 6 demolition of Northampton at Franklin's Gardens.

Aurélien Rougerie – 35 later this year, he remains Clermont's key influencer. Not quite as quick as before, but without him, the French contenders won't have the same inspiration.

Nicolas Sanchez – Clever and incisive, he has filled a problem position for the reigning champions since the retirement of Jonny Wilkinson.

Dimitri Szarzewski – The very soul of Racing's ambition. Aggressive, direct and as dynamic as ever with ball in hand and rowed in with a hat-trick of tries against Benetton Treviso in Round 5.

Billy Vunipola – Back to his barnstorming best for Saracens following a dip in form. Dominant in the comprehensive Round 5 victory over Munster.

Judging Panel: Emmanuel Massicard (Editor, Midi Olympique), Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports/The Sunday Times), Alan Quinlan (Sky Sports/The Irish Times), Mick Cleary (Rugby Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph), Dimitri Yachvili (beIN Sports)

Previous winners: Ronan O'Gara (Munster Rugby – best player of first 15 years of European club rugby tournaments); Sean O'Brien (Leinster Rugby) 2011; Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby) 2012; Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon) 2013; Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon) 2014

 

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