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. 

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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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https://twitter.com/optajonny/status/1310945439668109314?s=21 

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