Two of the potential stars of the next Lions tour have been nominated for the game’s greatest individual prize but, unfortunately, neither of them are British or Irish.
Wallaby duo David Pocock and Will Genia are among six nominees for the IRB Player of the Year Award due to be announced this coming Monday.
The influential openside and star scrum-half have been named alongside New Zealand trio Piri Weepu, Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu, as well as France skipper Thierry Dusautoir.
Both Pocock and Genia have become central cogs in the Wallaby wheel over the past three seasons, with the 23-year-olds establishing themselves among the top two or three players in their respective positions within the world game.
Pocock is now challenging legendary All Black Richie McCaw for the title of the world’s best No7, while Genia has arguably overtaken South Africa’s Fourie du Preez and Lions’ Test sensation Mike Phillips as the globe’s premier No9.
“The IRB Player of the Year Award is the ultimate accolade for a player to receive in his career. It takes on added significance in a Rugby World Cup year and takes into account player performances in all major internationals, including matches in the RBS 6 Nations and Tri Nations,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“The list of past winners of this prestigious award is very impressive and comprises players of the calibre of Schalk Burger, Dan Carter, Jonny Wilkinson, Bryan Habana, Shane Williams and Richie McCaw, the only player to have received the coveted award on more than one occasion.”
Wilkinson and Williams are two of the three Lions tourists to have previously picked up the award, with 1997 and 2001 Test hooker Keith Wood the inaugural winner back a decade ago.
England fly-half Wilkinson was crowned the world’s best in 2003 – the year in which he kicked England to global glory – while Welsh wing Williams followed that example in 2008, a year before he took part in his second Lions tour.
But while there are no Home Union players nominated this time around, the Lions will at least be represented on the judging panel, with Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Scott Quinnell and Paul Wallace all involved in picking the winner.
The Lions quartet, who boast eight Lions tours between them, joined John Eales, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot and Tana Umaga in deliberating on every major Test played in 2011, starting with the opening RBS 6 Nations match and culminating with this Sunday’s World Cup Final.
Previous winners of the IRB Player of the Year Award
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 Galthié (France)
2001 – Keith Wood (Ireland)