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Wilko on Euro shortlist

Fri, 17 May 2013 14:24
Jonny-wilkinson-toulon-dire Julien-bonnaire Wesley-fofana-clermont Jonny-wilkinson-toulon-kick Jamie-heaslip-ireland Sitiveni-sivivatu
Late additions to nominations
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It's down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in the Northern Hemisphere, ERC European Player of the Year 2013.

Following the decision of the judges to nominate the in-form quintet of Julien Bonnaire, Wesley Fofana and Sitiveni Sivivatu (all Clermont Auvergne) as well as Jamie Heaslip (Leinster) and Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon), the winner will be announced shortly after the conclusion of this weekend's Dublin 2013 finals.

The successful player will follow in the illustrious footsteps of the Leinster pair of Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien - winners in 2012 and 2011 respectively - while Munster's Ronan O'Gara was the inaugural recipient of the honour as the leading player over the first 15 years of both tournaments.

The start of the search to select Kearney's successor was based on player performances during the pool stages of the European Cup and Challenge Cup and a longlist of 15 players which was announced in January.

The judges then had the option to consider players who made major contributions during the quarterfinals and semifinals of both tournaments and on that basis, Heaslip, Sivivatu and Wilkinson forced their way into the shortlist.

Heaslip has been a key figure in Leinster's storming run to Friday's Challenge Cup Final, while Sivivatu has been in irresistible form during Clermont push to Saturday's European Cup decider.

As for the durable Wilkinson, he has been the undoubted inspiration behind Toulon's drive for a first European title both with the legendary accuracy of his goal-kicking and his tactical acumen.

In addition to the decision of the judging panel, the 44 clubs in the European Cup and the Challenge Cup have had the opportunity to vote for contenders nominated on the shortlist while supporters have been having their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2013, as well as on the European Cup and Challenge Cup Facebook pages.

Julien Bonnaire
Club: ASM Clermont Auvergne
Age: 34
Position: Back row
Country: France (75 tests)
European Cup apps: 57
CC apps: 5
2012/13 P 8 Pts 10 (2T)

Inspirational leader during Clermont's drive to a first European Cup final. Superb all-round forward who has been consistency personified this season with a string of outstanding performances.

Wesley Fofana
Club: ASM Clermont Auvergne
Age: 25
Position: Centre
Country: France (15 tests)
European Cup apps: 22
2012/13 P 7 Pts 25 (5 tries)

If Bonnaire has been the stabilising influence, Fofana has once again proved to be Clermont's razor-sharp cutting edge. Moved to the wing by France but a constant threat in his best position of centre for Clermont with five tries to his name in the current campaign.

Jamie Heaslip
Club: Leinster
Age: 29
Position: No 8
Country: Ireland (57 tests)
European Cup apps: 59
CC apps: 2
2012/13 P 8 Pts 15 (3T)

Extremely solid, if unspectacular, in the early stage of Leinster's European campaign, Heaslip has exploded into peak form in the knockout phase of the Challenge Cup with stand-out displays against both London Wasps and Biarritz.

Sitiveni Sivivatu
Club: ASM Clermont Auvergne
Position: Wing
Country: New Zealand (45 tests)
Age: 31
European Cup apps: 13
2012/13 P 7 Pts 15 (3T)

An inspired signing by Clermont, Sivivatu might have been overshadowed by the brilliance of Fofana in the pool stage, but he has been devastating in the knockout games producing moments of breathtaking class particularly in the quarter-final win over Montpellier.

Jonny Wilkinson
Club: Toulon
Age: 33
Position: Out half
Country: England (91 tests)
European Cup apps: 20
CC apps: 37
2012/13 P 8 Pts 97 (25P, 2DG, 8C)

Toulon are more than a one-man band but Wilkinson undoubtedly wields the conductor's baton. Approaching 100 points for the European Cup season, he was responsible for all of his team's 45 points in the knockout games to date. Playing some of the best rugby of his career.

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