Heineken Cup winners Jamie Heaslip and Brian O'Driscoll have been nominated for the 2009 IRB World Player of the Year Award.
The Leinster pair will be looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Heineken Cup competitors Keith Wood, Fabien Galthié, Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter and Shane Williams, all of whom have been crowned the world's best player since the award's inception in 2001.
Both Heaslip and O'Driscoll have been in stunning form for Leinster throughout the calendar year as the Dubliners became Heineken Cup Champions for the first time in their history.
The No8 and outside centre played pivotal roles as Leinster came through a Heineken Cup pool that included double European Champions London Wasps, before beating Harlequins, Munster and Leicester Tigers on their way to a fully-deserved European triumph.
The duo had previously excelled in Ireland's first Grand Slam triumph since 1948 and have since starred for the British & Irish Lions on their enthralling summer tour of South Africa.
Heaslip and O'Driscoll have been nominated alongside Australian playmaker Matt Giteau, All Black skipper Richie McCaw and Springbok internationals Francois Steyn and Fourie du Preez.
Also among the nominees is fellow Heineken Cup finalist Tom Croft.
The Leicester flanker became a household name in 2009 as the Tigers stormed to their fifth Heineken Cup Final since 1997.
Croft also won Test honours for the Lions against the Springboks as he enjoyed a remarkable rise to prominence having only made his international debut the previous year.
The nominations were made by a panel of famous rugby names, with Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustin Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga, Paul Wallace and John Eales watching over 60 hours of action from 46 matches, awarding points to the three players they thought stood out in each match.
"The IRB Player of the Year Award is the ultimate accolade for a player and takes into account performances in all internationals played during the year, including the RBS Six Nations, British & Irish Lions Test Series, Tri Nations and the June and November Tests," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"The list of past winners includes the iconic names of the decade - Jonny Wilkinson, Schalk Burger, Richie McCaw, Fabien Galthié, Dan Carter, Bryan Habana and Keith Wood have all been worthy recipients of the Award.
"Now that the shortlist has been selected the panel will reconvene at the completion of the November tests when the IRB Player of the Year will be selected. The announcement will be made at the conclusion of the final weekend of matches."
IRB World Player of the Year previous winners
2001 - Keith Wood
2002 - Fabien Galthié
2003 - Jonny Wilkinson
2004 - Schalk Burger
2005 - Dan Carter
2006 - Richie McCaw
2007 - Bryan Habanna
2008 - Shane Williams
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