The International Rugby Board has announced the shortlist for the prestigious IRB Player of the Year Award, with the winner set to be revealed following the final matches of the November window.
The 2013 nominees are: Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales and British & Irish Lions), Sergio Parisse (Italy), Kieran Read (New Zealand) and Ben Smith (New Zealand).
EBEN ETZEBETH (South Africa)
It is easy to forget that Etzebeth is only in his second season of international Rugby, the 22-year-old having seamlessly made the transition from age-grade Rugby to the Test arena and allayed any South African fears of who would succeed their dominant second row pairing of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha after Rugby World Cup 2011. A towering presence in the lineout, he has earned the plaudits from many commentators and opponents this year for his dominant displays, having started all bar one of South Africa’s Test matches in 2013. He has already amassed 22 caps since making his Test debut against England in June 2012.
LEIGH HALFPENNY (Wales, British and Irish Lions)
The full back has enjoyed a year to remember in 2013 after playing an influential role in Wales’ successful defence of the Six Nations title and the British & Irish Lions’ first series victory for 16 years. Halfpenny’s consistently impressive performances made him the obvious choice for the Player of the Tournament accolade in the Six Nations and the Player of the Series after the Lions beat Australia 2-1, the Welshman setting a new record of 49 Test points on what was his second tour despite the fact he will not turn 25 until December. One of the most high-profile players to graduate from the IRB Junior World Championship, Halfpenny has played 46 Tests for Wales and scored 329 points.
SERGIO PARISSE (Italy)
Italy’s talisman and number 8 is no stranger to being nominated for this prestigious Award and is a player any coach in world Rugby would be happy to have at his disposal. A player who wears his heart on his sleeve, Parisse led Italy to memorable wins over their RWC 2015 opponents France and Ireland in this year’s Six Nations, but wants to see the Azzurri consistently beat the sides above them in the world rankings. The 30-year-old joined the select 100 cap club last weekend and marked the occasion with a try in the victory over Fiji.
KIERAN READ (New Zealand)
Another inspirational number 8, Read continues to improve with each passing season and has enjoyed his best year to date in 2013 as New Zealand seek to become the first nation to go through the year unbeaten. His influence has been as huge as his workload in the lineout, his tackling, his ability to compete in the air and at the breakdown, not to mention the ability to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to creating or scoring tries. The 28-year-old has played 60 Tests for New Zealand, the majority of them in the back row alongside Richie McCaw, and is now the most prolific try-scoring number 8 in world Rugby.
BEN SMITH (New Zealand)
The 27-year-old has had the midas touch for the All Blacks in 2013 with 11 tries to his name. Smith has started every Test for the world champions in 2013, initially on the wing for the series against France and The Rugby Championship, before moving to centre for the end of year tour to fill the void left by Conrad Smith’s sabbatical. His eight tries in The Rugby Championship broke the previous record set by Bryan Habana and Christian Cullen and have made him one of the first names down on coach Steve Hansen’s teamsheet.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB Player of the Year Award is the ultimate recognition for achievement on the field from the world’s top players and one of the most eagerly anticipated and debated moments of the international Rugby year.”
“The list of previous winners reads like a list of the greats of the modern Game and all of our nominees fully deserve their place in the shortlist, displaying great character, ability and brilliance throughout the last 12 months of international Rugby.”
The IRB Player of the Year 2013 nominees were selected by the independent IRB Awards panel, chaired by Australia’s RWC 1999 winning captain John Eales.
The panel, comprising Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace, has deliberated on every major Test played in 2013, starting with the opening RBS Six Nations match and culminating with the November internationals.
“The IRB Player of the Year is always a close fought affair and gives the judging panel much consideration and deliberation.
The 2013 shortlist was again a tough one to consider and the crowning of the eventual winner will go right down to the wire,” said Eales.
In support of the initial nomination process, the public now has the chance to have their say on the shortlist here. The results of the public vote will be considered by the panel when finalising the winner.
The panel will reconvene after the final match on November 30, when the IRB Player of the Year will be selected and announced shortly afterwards. The IRB Coach and Team of the Year 2013 winners will also be announced at this time.
The IRB Player of the Year is one of the most prestigious accolades in Rugby and previous winners have all made a significant contribution to the international Game over the past decade and taken Rugby to new audiences around the world with their skill and talent.
Previous winners include Dan Carter, Thierry Dusautoir, Shane Williams, Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger, Jonny Wilkinson and Richie McCaw with the two All Black centurions the only players to have won the Award on more than one occasion.
The IRB Player of the Year is one of 13 categories of awards this year, including the IRB Coach of the Year, IRB Team of the Year, IRB Sevens Player of the Year, IRB Women’s Sevens Player of the Year and IRB Junior Player of the Year.
2012 Dan Carter (New Zealand)
2011 Thierry Dusautoir (France)
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)