ERC releases longlist for European Player of the Year 2014

ERC have released a longlist of 15 names for the European Player of the Year award 2014. The list has been put together by a group of rugby experts, including Stuart Barnes, Mick Cleary, Emmanuel Massicard, Emile Ntamack and Gerry Thornley.

Previous winners of the award are: Jonny Wilkinson (2013), Rob Kearney (2012), Sean O’Brien (2011) and Ronan O’Gara (judged the best player prior to the award’s introduction in 2011).

Here is the list of nominees, along with the panel’s reasoning for their inclusion on the list:

Steffon Armitage – Sheer power and dynamism. The Toulon back row, who has featured at No 8 this season, won 13 turnovers in the Heineken Cup pool stage – only Justin Tipuric of Ospreys with 15 has more.

Miles Benjamin – Back from injury, and making waves in Europe. The strong-running wing scored four tries in four games for Leicester Tigers in their push to the quarter-finals – only Chris Ashton (7) and Naipolioni Nalaga (5) have more – and made eight clean breaks.

Sean Cronin – Another dynamic contender with six clean breaks to his name for Leinster in the pool stage – no other Heineken Cup hooker has made more than three this season. His success rate for line-out throwing is 86%.

Jean-Marc Doussain – The multi-talented Toulouse playmaker has a total of 15 defenders beaten which is the best for an out-half. He has also landed 13 of his 14 shots at goal.
Matt Giteau – The gifted Australian made 53 tackles for Toulon in the pool matches – the best for a centre. Giteau also scored two tries for last season’s Heineken Cup champions and came up with three assists.

Alex Goode – The in-form Saracens full-back, who scored a brilliant individual try against Connacht in Round 6, is the third highest metre-maker in the Heineken Cup to date with 459 and also ranks third for defenders beaten with 21.

Cian Healy – Despite playing only 188 minutes in Europe this season, just five props have made more metres than the Leinster powerhouse who has carried for 77 metres. Healy has also beaten seven defenders, ranking him second among the Heineken Cup props.

Fritz Lee – With 53 carries, 36 out of 38 tackles made and two tries in his four matches for Clermont, the rugged, hard-running New Zealander has been the find of the European season at No 8.

George North – His 434 metres gained in the pool stage puts him in the Heineken Cup top-five metre makers. North’s irresistible combination of pace, balance and power will be a massive asset to Northampton Saints as they pursue more European silverware in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Paul O’Connell – Quite simply Munster’s talisman during the two-time champions’ drive to yet another Heineken Cup quarter-final. Without the inspirational second row, the Irish province’s chances of winning a third European title are massively diminished.

Peter O’Mahony – If O’Connell is the brain, O’Mahony is the heart. A superb all-round back row, Munster’s abrasive captain has scored two tries and made 35 out of 39 tackles during the pool stage.

Louis Picamoles – The powerhouse Toulouse No 8 leads the Heineken Cup statistics in two categories this season with 84 carries and 27 defenders beaten. Picamoles’ total of 300 metres gained is also the best of any forward in the tournament.

Ruan Pienaar – A class act in Ulster’s 100% pool stage performance. The brilliant South African led the No 1 seeds to a Ravenhill quarter-final with a total of 54 points including two tries.

Sitiveni Sivivatu – With the highest total of clean breaks (14) and the second-best individual performance in metres gained (510), the outstanding former New Zealand wing has once again been one of the players of the tournament.

Jonny Wilkinson – The Heineken Cup’s top points-scorer with 73 going into the knockout stage. Only three out-halves have made more tackles (37) than the evergreen Toulon captain.

Who would you say are the frontrunners for the award?

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

15 thoughts on “ERC releases longlist for European Player of the Year 2014

  1. Strange how of the four Englishmen shortlisted, only one is likely to play for England this six nations, and even he is guaranteed a start.

    1. Not that strange.

      One plays in France
      One plays in France and is regrettably too old to be a factor in England’s long-term plans
      One will probably be on the bench
      One has only just come back from very long-term injury

      I’d love to see what Armitage can do at international level, but the criteria has been made absolutely plain and if he wants to play for England, he’ll need to come back to the Premiership

      England aren’t exactly short of quality 8s or flankers either.

  2. “Only three out-halves have made more tackles (37) than the evergreen Toulon captain” – you say this as if it’s a good thing.

    Anyway, I agree with Tweet, Pienaar all the way for this one – the most influential player on the list.

    1. Completely agree with you about Jonny. It’s not very English of me, but I was my 10 to create things, kick goals and get the back line moving. They must not be the turnstile that Cipriani is(was), but defense is not something that should be highlighted when talking about their qualities.

      1. I don’t think there’s any problems in highlighting it but it shouldn’t be the main criteria, After all, if your fly-half can steer the team to victory and make a large amount of tackles at the same time, how can that not be a plus?

        1. I agree it’s a plus but I think we’re all familiar enough with Jonny’s press that we know it’s actually talked about as a differentiating point – he might not be the creator that Carter is, the string puller that O’Gara was, etc. but he can tackle like a six. Some sections of the media seem to have become so enamoured of this that it’s now at the point where defensive prowess of a 10 is talked about before the rest of his abilities – look at Matthew Morgan and Sam Davies in Wales – constantly talked about as “it’s a shame they’re so small because they’re brilliant attackers” – the implication being that they’ll never actually make it cos they’re not six foot defensive monsters and all of this, to my mind, came from the way the press started writing about Jonny.

          Of course they can’t be made of balsa wood like ROG was, but all I really expect is for them to hold their own in the backline. If my ten finds himself needing to make an inordinate number of tackles I’d be worried that it indicates my 6/7 are off showboating somewhere and that my 10 isn’t going to have any energy left to actually pull some moves.

          No tries scored in that Toulon game, all penalty kicks, little penetration and the Toulon 10 was a tackling machine. I think those things are related. Tackling is very, very tiring.

          1. Completely agree with you again Brighty, BUT, I also have an issue with the way the media portray him for different reasons.

            People talk about his tackling and his kicking, and completely forget that throughout his career he has also had the ability to be a brilliant all round 10. I accept that now he sits far deeper and plays differently, but no one will ever convince me that 2003 vintage Jonny Wilkinson was not a fantastic attacking 10.

            1. I agree with that Jacob. It’s the media that seem to have become obsessed with his “bravery” and tackling appetite. He was a better 10 than just that.

              1. Can’t find anything in your responses to disagree with. Its media laziness really. At first it was an interesting point of differentation – a fly-half that hits like a 6 – but that has become the default position when writing about him

                Of course there’s more to his game than that. He’s no spring chicken, yet his club, Heineken Cup champions who could afford to buy any fly-half in the world, choose instead to keep on extending his contract.

                You don’t need any more affirmation of his quality than that.

                1. “Can’t find anything in your responses to disagree with” – but you tried to, right? :-)

                  I’d go further than say it’s become the default way to talk about Jonny, I think it’s coloured the debates in general about 10s to the extent that some fans now seem to think that if their 10 isn’t a hard tackling machine then he’s not up to the job e.g. people use this as a defence of Farrel when the subject of his apparent lack of ability to get the backs moving or to make something himself comes up. To me being a great defensive 10 isn’t a mitigating factor for being crap at being an actual 10 much like being great in the loose isn’t any good when you can’t scrummage as a prop.

                  I’ll add here that Farrel is used as an example due to the apparent lack of ability to do this for England. I’ve seen him do it for the Lions so he does seem capable, I have no idea why he doesn’t do it for England. Maybe he see’s Farrel outside him and is so shocked by having this skill-less roadblock on an international rugby pitch he’s shocked into immediately shoveling the ball on to him?

                2. Naturally

                  Can’t find anything to disagree with in this either. You are right

                  Of course a fly-half should be able to tackle and not be a complete turnstile but it certainly isn’t the first criteria you should be looking at

                  Did you mean Barritt outside him

  3. Just watched a bit of the Eng vs Aus game (one of them) from 2002 I think, and Jonny sat deep then, just as the ABs often play very deep now. It’s really not the problem people think it is, unless you have slow players not running onto the ball. Farrell standing deep isn’t the problem, Farrell being very slow is. Jonny was never a creative force, but he’s always had a pass, was quick at shipping it out, and was happy to carry to the line before slipping a small pass out to the runner coming on the inside (or outside). Reminds me a lot of Ford in many ways, but Ford also has the vision to not give the slip pass and throw it long when there’s space out there.

    Farrell unfortunately matches the media hyped version of Jonny, but not the less hyped facets of his game, and this is where he limits the entire backline as Jonny never did.

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