Richie McCaw nominated for IRB Player of the Year


James Mortimer     17 Nov 2009     getty

A win for the Canterbury flanker would see him become the first player to receive the honour twice.

There are seven nominees from five countries for the award, in what is the closest vote for the title of best player in rugby union for the year.

Along with McCaw, Ireland’s Grand Slam winning Captain Brian O’Driscoll, Irish number eight Jamie Heaslip, Wallabies first five Matt Giteau, Tom Croft of England, and two Springboks, in Francois Steyn and Fourie Du Preez have been selected.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapassat explained what is rugby union’s highest single honour for an individual.

"The IRB Player of the Year award is the ultimate accolade for a player and takes into account performances in all internationals played during the year, including the RBS 6 Nations, British & Irish Lions Test series, Tri Nations and the June and November Tests,” he said.

"The list of past winners includes the iconic names of the decade - Jonny Wilkinson, Schalk Burger, Richie McCaw, Fabien Galthié, Dan Carter, Bryan Habana and Keith Wood, they have all been worthy recipients of the award.”

"Richie McCaw could become the first player to receive the accolade twice."

The nominees were selected by an independent panel of judges, all former internationals with over 500 test caps experience.

Former All Black captain Tana Umaga was joined by Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustin Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Paul Wallace and convenor John Eales.

They watched over 60 hours of footage from 46 matches, awarding merit points to three players they thought stood out in each match.

"Now that the shortlist has been selected, the panel will reconvene at the completion of the November Tests when the IRB Player of the Year will be selected. The announcement will be made at the conclusion of the final weekend of matches," added Lapasset.

The award is the sixth of 13 awards given by the IRB, in association with sponsor Emirates.

In May, England captain Ollie Phillips was named IRB Sevens Player of the Year, while New Zealand captain Aaron Cruden was named IRB Junior Player of the Year in June. Australia's Debby Hodgkinson was named IRB Women's Personality of the Year in August and L'Aquila Rugby Club received the Spirit of Rugby Award in September.

Recently, Francis Palmade received the IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service.

This year has seen a new format, with winners named throughout the year. The Player, Coach and Team of the year will be named later this month.

Previous Player of the Year Winners:

2001 - Keith Wood (Ireland)
2002 - Fabien Galthié (France)
2003 - Jonny Wilkinson (England)
2004 - Schalk Burger (South Africa)
2005 - Dan Carter (New Zealand)
2006 - Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2007 - Bryan Habana (South Africa)
2008 - Shane Williams (Wales)