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The key stats separating the European player of the year award contenders

By Josh Raisey
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Voting is now open for the European player of the year and it contains four Heineken Champions Cup finalists as Exeter Chiefs duo Sam Simmonds and Stuart Hogg have made the final five while fellow finalists Racing 92 are represented by Finn Russell and Virimi Vakatawa. Meanwhile, Challenge Cup finalists Bristol Bears also have a nomination for their centre Semi Radradra. 


There is very little to separate the contenders this year, with all five making European finals, so sports analytics company Opta have provided useful stats about each player and what has made them stand out this season. From Racing, the most noticeable figure is that outside centre Vakatawa has beaten 48 defenders in the Champions Cup this season, 19 more than any other player. 

In order for a player to have such impressive stats in the wider channels of the field, there is usually a creative force inside them, which is undoubtedly Russell in this case. 

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Unsurprisingly, the Scottish fly-half has assisted the most tries in the tournament, with seven. Russell and Vakatawa worked in tandem perfectly for the only try of the semi-final against Saracens, although it was Juan Imhoff who went over. 

From Exeter, Simmonds is the leading try scorer in the competition, with seven. He added another one in their semi-final victory over Toulouse at the weekend, scoring what has become a typical Exeter try from close range. The loose forward also ranks in the top three forwards for carries (92), metres (290) and defenders beaten (23). 

Radradra, finally, has the most carries of any back in the Challenge Cup with 71, and also has the most assists for any player outside of the half-backs, with five. It is worth noting that the Fijian moved from Bordeaux to Bristol Bears midway through the season, but has been sensational since moving to Ashton Gate. 

The winner of the award will be announced on October 17 after the Champions Cup final. 



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Shaylen 31 minutes ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 6 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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