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Ford and Smith named in 15-strong European player of the year list

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Five Gallagher Premiership players – including George Ford of Leicester and Harlequins’ Marcus Smith – have been named on the Heineken Champions Cup player of the year longlist following the recent completion of the pool stages and they will now fight it out with five players from the Top 14 and five more from Ireland for European rugby’s most prized individual accolade when the tournament resumes in April.    

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Harlequins lead the way for English clubs with players nominated, the 2021 Gallagher Premiership champions getting Alex Dombrandt and Smith included on a Champions Cup list that also features Leicester’s Ford, Sam Simmonds of Exeter and Semi Radradra of Bristol. 

However, the club with the most representation is Irish province Leinster as they have three candidates – Caelan Doris, Jimmy O’Brien and Josh van der Flier – nominated alongside Irish colleagues Michael Lowry of Ulster and Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue.  

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Toulouse’s Antoine Dupont, the current holder of the EPCR player of the year and World Rugby player of the year awards, is again in the running. 

AN EPCR statement read: “As rising stars of the English game, the Harlequins pair have made a significant impact this season with Dombrandt scoring six tries from his four appearances and with Smith topping the scoring charts with 46 points from the same number of matches.

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“Leinster’s O’Brien hit the headlines by becoming the first player to score four tries for the club in a European fixture when he starred in the comprehensive round four victory over Bath, while Sam Simmonds of the Exeter Chiefs – winner of the award in 2020 – has been on the try-trail once again with a magnificent seven to date.

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“The impressive Gregory Alldritt has made 45 carries and seven offloads for La Rochelle during their push for the round of 16, and Ulster’s Michael Lowry has been in scintillating form for the Irish province, topping the statistics categories in metres (563), defenders beaten (23) and line breaks (8).

“The winner of the award, which is in its twelfth season, will receive the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy in memory of the former Munster coach and captain. Voting is now open HERE and fans will be in the running to win a signed ball and a signed jersey courtesy of one of the Heineken Champions Cup finalist clubs.

“The list will be reduced to five players following the Champions Cup semi-finals in May by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judging panel, and players who have not been included in the initial longlist, but who make a significant impact during the knockout stages, may be considered for the shortlist.”

The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2022 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final in Marseille on Saturday, 28 May.

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2022 EPCR European Player of the Year nominees
Gregory ALLDRITT (Stade Rochelais)
Alex DOMBRANDT (Harlequins)
Caelan DORIS (Leinster Rugby)
Antoine DUPONT (Stade Toulousain)
Gael FICKOU (Racing 92)
George FORD (Leicester Tigers)
Michael LOWRY (Ulster Rugby)
Jimmy O’BRIEN (Leinster Rugby)
Jack O’DONOGHUE (Munster Rugby)
Damian PENAUD (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Semi RADRADRA (Bristol Bears)
Sam SIMMONDS (Exeter Chiefs)
Marcus SMITH (Harlequins)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby)
Cameron WOKI (Union Bordeaux-Begles)

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