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Nominees for World Rugby Players of the Year announced

No fewer than three of Saracens’ Aviva Premiership Rugby winning stars have been named on the six-man shortlist for the prestigious men’s XVs Player of the Year award for 2016.

The gong, which will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at the Hilton London Metropole on 13 November, has not gone to an Englishman since 2003 when Jonny Wilkinson claimed it following a glittering performance at the Rugby World Cup.

But this year Aviva Premiership Rugby can boast half of the players shortlisted with Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola exciting and inspiring fans around the world with their feats this year.

As well as steering Saracens to a league and European Cup double, this year has seen 25-year-old Farrell utilised by coach Eddie Jones as an inside-centre – playing outside Bath Rugby’s George Ford as they did for England U20s.

The positional switch has not affected his influence however, and he finished the RBS 6 Nations as top points scorer with 69 and was named man of the match in the final Test against Australia in June.

Farrell is nominated for the second time, having lost out to Dan Carter in 2012, but for 22-year-old starlet Itoje – who truly broke onto the world stage this year – it is a first.

The youngest of the nominees, Itoje is also nominated for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year accolade having only made his England debut off the bench against Italy in February.

England’s World Rugby U20 Championship-winning captain in 2014, Itoje shows a calmness and maturity beyond his years with nothing seeming to faze the second-row.

And last but by no means least, No.8 Vunipola has come of age in 2016, thriving under the guidance of Jones who has given him the responsibility of being one of England’s vice-captains.

Vunipola has played 29 tests since his debut in 2013 and was named man of the match three times in England’s Six Nations Grand Slam-winning campaign for his barnstorming displays.

They are joined on the list by two All Blacks in Beauden Barrett and Dane Coles, while Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip completes the line-up.

Both shortlists were selected by independent panels featuring former internationals and members of the media, who deliberated on every major Test from the Six Nations through to those on 5 November.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “It is testament to the current strength of the men’s and women’s 15s game that there was so much competition for these prestigious awards.

“There is class in abundance with New Zealand’s Barrett and Coles, England’s Vunipola, Itoje and Farrell and Ireland’s Heaslip. There is also a great mix of experienced, proven campaigners and exciting young talent.”

These awards are two of 12 categories of awards, including the World Rugby Team of the Year, World Rugby Coach of the Year, World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Sevens Players of the Year in association with HSBC and World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year.

Previous World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year Award winners:

2015 – Dan Carter (New Zealand)

2014 – Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)

2013 – Kieran Read (New Zealand)

2012 – Dan Carter (New Zealand)

2011 – Thierry Dusautoir (France)

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)

Previous World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year Award winners:

2015 – Kendra Cocksedge (New Zealand)

2014 – Magali Harvey (Canada)

2012 – Michaela Staniford (England)

2011 – Ruth Mitchell

2010 – Carla Hohepa (New Zealand)

2009 – Debby Hodgkinson (Australia)

2008 – Carol Isherwood

2007 – Sarah Corrigan

2006 – Maggie Alphonsi (England)

2005 – Farah Palmer (New Zealand)

2004 – Donna Kennedy (Scotland)

2003 – Kathy Flores (USA)

2002 – Monique Hirovanaa (New Zealand)

2001 – Shelley Rae (England)

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