Springbok lock Victor Matfield was today included on the shortlist of nominees by the International Rugby Board for the IRB Player of the Year 2010 Award, in association with Emirates Airline.
The winner of the prestigious individual accolade will be announced on Wednesday, December 1, along with the IRB Coach of the Year and IRB Team of the Year.
Six nominees have been selected for their outstanding performances throughout a compelling year of international fixtures.
The shortlist combines a blend of vastly experienced players with rising young stars who have graduated from the IRB Junior World Championship to the international stage in the last couple of years.
Apart from Matfield, who played his 100th Test for South Africa earlier this year, New Zealand captain and 2009 Player of the Year Richie McCaw, his All Black team mate Mils Muliaina, France stalwart Imanol Harinordoquy and young Australian stars David Pocock and Kurtley Beale were also nominated.
“It’s a great honour to be nominated and a bit of a surprise to be honest after what has been a tough year for the Springbok team,” said Matfield, who also made the short list in 2007.
“To be included once again is very humbling – especially as there have been some outstanding performances this year.
“But rugby is the ultimate team game and none of us can perform without our team mates and they deserve a share of the recognition. But right now we have only one focus and that is very much on Saturday’s Test against England.”
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB Player of the Year Award is the greatest individual honour presented annually in our Game. The six players nominated have all enjoyed an exceptional year of international Rugby and have been judged on their performances in the RBS Six Nations, Vodacom Tri-Nations, June and November Tests.
“It is an impressive shortlist. Richie McCaw has already made history as the first player to win the Award twice, while Imanol Harinordoquy, Victor Matfield and Mils Muliaina have consistently performed to highest standards over the years.
“It is also pleasing to see some of the brightest stars of the world Game in Kurtley Beale and David Pocock also nominated for their achievements during what has been a fascinating year, setting the scene for what promises to be a memorable Rugby World Cup 2011,” said Lapasset.
The nominees were selected by the IRB Awards independent panel of judges, chaired by Rugby World Cup winning captain John Eales, following a year-long review of all Test matches and thorough consultation and deliberation.
The panel comprises some of the biggest names in the Game with Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga, Paul Wallace and Eales winning over 500 caps and boasting four Rugby World Cup winners medals between them.
“The panel watch Test matches throughout the year, providing comprehensive analysis on players and making their selection based on performance and number of appearances,” said Eales.
“The shortlist represents a great group of players who have enjoyed an exceptional year on the international stage.”
The IRB Player of the Year Award will be the seventh of the IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline to be presented in 2010.
In May, Samoa’s Mikaele Pesamino was named IRB Sevens Player of the Year, while New Zealand’s Julian Savea received the IRB Junior Player of the Year accolade in June and Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Carla Hohepa of New Zealand the IRB Women’s Personality of the Year Award in September. Brian O’Shea received the IRB Development Award in October and Colin High was presented with the IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service earlier this month.
Previous Winners of the IRB Player of the Year Award:
2009 – Richie McCaw
2008 – Shane Williams
2007 – Bryan Habana
2006 – Richie McCaw
2005 – Dan Carter
2004 – Schalk Burger
2003 – Jonny Wilkinson
2002 – Fabien Galthie
2001 – Keith Wood
Issued by SARU Communications and the IRBTweet