Heineken Cup: Saracens and Toulon make up the European Player of the Year shortlist
Last Updated: 22/05/14 5:15pm
Heineken Cup finalists Saracens and Toulon dominate the shortlist for the European Player of the Year award, with Jonny Wilkinson out to defend his crown.
Former England No 10 and 2013 winner of the award Wilkinson, who makes his final European appearance at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, heads a five-man shortlist with team-mate Steffon Armitage also nominated.
Saracens trio Jacques Burger, Chris Ashton and Schalk Brits have also been recognised by the judging panel made up of Sky Sports pundit Stuart Barnes, journalists Mike Cleary, Gerry Thornley and Marc Duzan as well as three-time winner Emile Ntamack.
Defending champions Toulon head into Saturday’s showpiece event in Cardiff looking to become only the third side to defend their title.
Wilkinson enters Saturday’s final with 100 points to his name following an excellent campaign and will aim to emulate Martin Johnson, Fabien Pelous and Leo Cullen and become just the fourth captain to lift the European trophy twice as he bows out.
Fellow England international and Toulon team-mate Armitage has yet again been at the heart of the French heavyweights dominance, with the back-row leading the tournament’s turnover statistics with 17 in eight appearances.
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After bouncing back from a career-threatening knee injury, Saracens flanker Burger has peaked in European competition and in an astonishing 69-minute period against Clermont in the semi-final, the Namibian made 27 tackles.
England winger Ashton has been a clinical finisher for Saracens, setting a new Heineken Cup record of 11 tries, eclipsing the Sebastien Carrat of Brive’s 17-year-old mark.
South African Brits completes the shortlist after displaying a blend a distribution and pace which has left opposition defences in disarray with the hooker making a total of 83 carries as well as scoring a try in Saracens’ 64-6 pool stage thrashing of Connacht.
ERC European Player of the Year shortlist:
Jacques Burger (Saracens)
Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon)
Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Steffon Armitage (Toulon)
Schalk Brits (Saracens)