Rhule up for top European award

Raymond Rhule is among a list of 15 nominees for the prestigious EPCR European Player of the Year 2021 award after his excellent form for La Rochelle.

Rhule is one of five La Rochelle players on the list, after the French club booked a place in the Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history. His teammates, Grégory Alldritt, Levani Botia, Kevin Gourdon and Will Skelton, have also been nominated.

It has been a monumental rise for the Springbok wing, who joined La Rochelle only last June after playing for Grenoble in the ProD2. Most recently, Rhule scored an impressive brace of tries and picked up a try assist to help La Rochelle beat the Sale Sharks in the Champions Cup quarter-finals.

Leinster Rugby, meanwhile, have four players – Tadhg Furlong, Robbie Henshaw, Hugo Keenan and Josh van der Flier – on the list while Toulouse also have four nominees in Antoine Dupont, Jerome Kaino, Julien Marchand and Romain Ntamack.

With players from as many as seven countries – Australia, Fiji, France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa – getting the initial vote of the judges, Matthieu Jalibert of Bordeaux-Bègles and ASM Clermont Auvergne’s Kotaro Matsushima complete the star-studded longlist following their outstanding performances.

The winner of one of the most prized individual accolades in the world game will receive a specially struck gold medal as well as the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy.

Voting for the award, which is in its 11th season, is now open HERE and fans will be in the running to win a signed ball and a signed jersey of one of the Heineken Champions Cup finalist clubs.

The list will be reduced to five players in early May, following the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup semi-finals, by a combination of the public vote and the verdict of the judges, and players who have not been included on the initial list of 15, but who make a significant impact in a semi-final match, may be considered for the shortlist.

The voting will then reopen and the winner of the 2021 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final on Saturday, 22 May.

EPCR European Player of the Year 2021 award nominees:

Grégory Alldritt (La Rochelle)
Levani Botia (La Rochelle)
Antoine Dupont (Toulouse)
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby)
Kevin Gourdon (La Rochelle)
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby)
Matthieu Jalibert (Bordeaux-Bègles)
Jerome Kaino (Toulouse)
Hugo Keenan (Leinster Rugby)
Julien Marchand (Toulouse)
Kotaro Matsushima (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Romain Ntamack (Toulouse)
Raymond Rhule (La Rochelle)
Will Skelton (La Rochelle)
Josh van der Flier (Leinster Rugby)

Roll of Honour – 2020: Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs); 2019: Alex Goode (Saracens); 2018: Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92); 2017: Owen Farrell (Saracens); 2016: Maro Itoje (Saracens); 2015: Nick Abendanon (ASM Clermont Auvergne); 2014: Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon); 2013: Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon); 2012: Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby); 2011: Sean O’Brien (Leinster Rugby); 2010: Ronan O’Gara (Munster Rugby – best player of first 15 years of European professional club competitions).

Photo: Getty Images

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Dylan Jack