The nominees for the 2018 Zurich Players’ Player of the Year Award were unveiled in Dublin yesterday and will be awarded at The Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards, one of the biggest nights in celebration of the sport, on Wednesday, 16th May, at the Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge.
Keith Earls, Ireland’s 4th all-time record try scorer, has enjoyed a series of outstanding performances for both Munster and Ireland.
Tadhg Furlong is nominated for the second year running after shining for the British & Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand and spearheading Ireland’s front row during the NatWest Six Nations.
Conor Murray, the current holder of the prestigious award, has had a scintillating year for the British & Irish Lions, Munster and Ireland, with the scrum-half adding goal kicking and line-outs to his talents.
Johnny Sexton’s year will be forever remembered for that last-minute drop goal against France in Paris, reinforcing his reputation as Ireland’s talisman.
“This year’s Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate what has been a superb year for Irish rugby from winning the Grand Slam and having Leinster competing for the Champions Cup title to hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup,” said Anthony Brennan, CEO of Zurich.
“We are hugely proud to support rugby in Ireland through a number of initiatives including the Tackle Your Feelings campaign.”
“For us, these awards are about recognising individuals that have demonstrated an extraordinary contribution to the sport on the field and throughout their wider communities, underpinned by our sponsorship of the Zurich Contribution to Irish Society Award.”
“It’s an honour to be nominated by my fellow players for the 2018 Zurich Players’ Player of the Year Award, alongside my teammates and friends,” added Keith Earls.
“Tadgh, Conor and Johnny have had stand out performances so I’m delighted to be there alongside them.”
“Whilst it’s fantastic to be celebrating some fantastic moments this season like the Grand Slam, we’re conscious that we’ve got the closing stages of the Guinness Pro14 ahead – there’s still a lot to play for.”
“To see so many exceptional young players shortlisted for the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year Award really points to a strong future for Irish rugby – and even bigger and better seasons ahead.”
Jacob Stockdale may have been the Player of the NatWest Six Nations tournament this year but his place at the Awards will be in contention for the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year as opposed to the senior award.
He will compete for the award alongside Jordan Larmour and James Ryan of Leinster
Following Ireland’s hosting of the 2017 Woman’s Rugby World Cup Katie Fitzhenry, Ciara Griffin and Claire Molloy are in contention for the BNY Mellon Women’s XV Player of the Year 2018 as voted by the players involved over the last 12 months.
The Woman’s 7s Player of the Year will also be awarded on the night, and the nominees are Ashleigh Baxter, Stacey Flood and Lucy Mulhall.
The Vodafone Medal for Excellence will be awarded to the individual who has shown exceptional commitment to the game of rugby both on and off the field. Nominated this year by their peers are Duncan Casey (Grenoble), Jake Heenan (Connacht) and Rhys Ruddock (Leinster).
There will also be chance for members of the public to get involved by nominating their Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort Moment of the Year 2018 via Twitter @druidsglen, using #RugbyAwards18.
Rugby fans across Ireland can choose The Mason Alexander Supporters Player of the Year 2018 which will be will be run through the Rugby Players Ireland website.
There will also be the Volkswagen Award for the Try of the Year.
On Friday, May 18th Sport for Business will kick off a summer programme featuring the best examples of how business and sport are working together to create real benefit for society. Find out more and get involved.
Join Former World Boxing Champion Andy Lee, Former World Ranked Tennis star James Cluskey and Ireland’s most capped international sports star Nikki Symmons for breakfast and inspiration. More Details here.
Image credit: Morgan Treacy, Inpho Photography