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Saracens trio among World Rugby Player of the Year nominees

LONDON (AFP) – 

England’s so far unbeaten year under Australian coach Eddie Jones was recognised Monday with three internationals from Saracens providing 50 percent of the nominees for the 2016 World Rugby Player of the Year award.

Goal-kicker Owen Farrell, No 8 Billy Vunipola and lock Maro Itoje were on a shortlist that also included New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett and Dane Cole and Ireland back-row Jamie Heaslip.

The Saracens trio helped the London club win the English Premiership and European Champions Cup titles.

They also played key roles as England won their first nine Tests under Jones — appointed after the hosts’ embarrassing first-round exit at last year’s World Cup.

England’s unbeaten run included a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 series win in Australia.

Itoje, 22, had already been nominated for the ‘breakthrough’ player of the year award.

Barrett had the unenviable task of replacing fly-half great Dan Carter as the All Blacks’ No 10 after the latter’s Test retirement following New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup triumph.

But the attacking Barrett filled the gap as New Zealand extended their unbeaten run to 18 Tests — a world record for a leading rugby union nation.

Dynamic hooker Coles, often seen finishing off moves on the wing, also played his part in a brilliant winning streak that only ended on Saturday with Ireland’s stunning 40-29 win over the All Blacks in Chicago.

Experienced No 8 Heaslip was once more the link man between the pack and the backs as Ireland beat New Zealand for the first time in 111 years of trying.

At 33, he is the oldest of this year’s nominees, having been on the shortlist in 2009 when the award was won by New Zealand great Richie McCaw.

The six players were chosen by a panel chaired by Australia’s 1999 World Cup-winning captain John Eales and featuring former internationals Will Greenwood (England), Raphaël Ibanez (France), Francois Pienaar (South Africa), Chris Paterson (Scotland), Agustín Pichot (Argentina), Scott Quinnell (Wales), Tana Umaga (New Zealand) and Paul Wallace (Ireland) as well as experienced rugby journalists Pierre Galy (Agence France-Presse), Stephen Jones ( The Sunday Times, Britain), Jim Kayes (TV3, New Zealand) and Sergio Stuart ( Ole, Argentina).

“There is class in abundance with New Zealand’s Barrett and Coles, England’s Vunipola, Itoje and Farrell and Ireland’s Heaslip,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.

“There is also a great mix of experienced, proven campaigners and exciting young talent,” added Beaumont, England’s 1980 Grand Slam-winning captain.

The nominees for the equivalent Women’s Player of the Year award announced Monday were Fiao’o Fa’amausili (New Zealand), Sarah Hunter (England) and Gaëlle Mignot (France).

Both trophies will be presented at the will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at London’s Hilton Metropole hotel on Sunday, November 13.

New Zealand, England and Fiji Sevens had all previously been nominated for the team of the year award, with their respective coaches — Steve Hansen, Jones and Englishman Ben Ryan all vying for the coach of the year title.

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161107-saracens-trio-among-world-rugby-player-year-nominees