Jonny Wilkinson: ERC European Player of the Year 2013
As the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup reach their conclusion, ERC, the governing body of European club rugby's two tournaments, is beginning the search for the outstanding player who will follow in the footsteps of Jonny Wilkinson and become the ERC European Player of the Year 2014.
The Toulon captain won the prestigious title in 2013 after helping his club to capture the Heineken Cup for the first time following a dramatic final victory over French rivals ASM Clermont Auvergne.
The quest is now underway again to find this season's winner, and a longlist of 15 contenders, based on the pool stage performances of players from the 44 clubs in both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup competitions, will be announced after the Round 6 games following nominations from a Judging Panel.
The Judging Panel will also have the option to consider additional players who make outstanding contributions during the quarter-final and semi-final matches for their five-man shortlist following the semi-finals with the overall winner named directly after the Cardiff 2014 finals weekend in May.
In addition to the decision of the panel, the 44 clubs in ERC's tournaments will also have the opportunity to vote for contenders on the shortlist while supporters will also have their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2014 and on the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup Facebook pages.
The Judging Panel for this season's award is: Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Mick Cleary (Daily Telegraph), Emmanuel Massicard (Midi Olympique), Emile Ntamack (three-time Heineken Cup winner with Toulouse) and Gerry Thornley (Irish Times).
Previous winners: Ronan O'Gara (Munster Rugby - best player of first 15 years of ERC's tournaments); Sean O'Brien (Leinster Rugby) 2011; Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby) 2012; Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon) 2013
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.