New Zealand and South Africa have provided four of the five nominees announced for the 2014 International Rugby Board world player-of-the-year award – but there’s not a Wallaby to be seen.
Given the All Blacks and the Springboks are currently first and second in the IRB world rankings, it is perhaps no surprise that world champions New Zealand have two nominees in wing Julian Savea and lock Brodie Retallick, with South Africa fullback Willie le Roux and No.8 Duane Vermeulen also up for the award.
The world’s No.3-ranked side, Australia, provided no players for the elite award, which has never been claimed by an Australian.
The only European player in a five-man shortlist is Ireland five-eighth Jonathan Sexton.
Nominees were chosen by an eight-man panel chaired by Australia’s 1999 World Cup-winning captain John Eales and featuring seven other former internationals in Will Greenwood (England), Gavin Hastings (Scotland), Raphael Ibanez (France), Francois Pienaar South Africa), Agustin Pichot (Argentina), Scott Quinnell (Wales), Tana Umaga (New Zealand) and Paul Wallace (Ireland).
Savea has a stunning strike-rate of 29 tries in just 31 Tests, including 10 so far in 2014 ahead of Saturday’s match against Scotland at Murrayfield while the powerful Retallick’s partnership with Sam Whitelock is arguably the best second row combination in Test rugby at present.
Le Roux has added an extra cutting edge to South Africa’s backline and has started all 10 of the Springboks’ internationals in 2014 to date, with Vermeulen winning plaudits for his work at the breakdown area, dynamic ball-carrying and strength in the tackle.
Sexton, who starred for the British and Irish Lions in Australia last year, demonstrated his class again when he orchestrated Ireland’s 29-15 win over South Africa in Dublin on Saturday.
Previous recipients include England 2003 World Cup star Jonny Wilkinson, former Wales wing Shane Williams and current New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, who has won the award a record three times.
McCaw’s All Blacks team-mate Kieran Read is the current holder of the award, having won it in 2013.
“All of these nominees have enjoyed stellar years, and the focus on who will claim this accolade will add an extra dimension to the remaining November Tests,” IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said in a statement.
The winner of the award, based on international performances this year, will be revealed at their nation’s final Test of 2014.
Previous winners of the IRB World Rugby Player of the Year award:
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 Galthie (France)
2001 – Keith Wood (Ireland)