Banished Scotland stand-off Finn Russell and new national captain Stuart Hogg have both been nominated for the EPCR European Player of the Year 2020 award.
Russell is not part of Scotland's squad currently preparing for the weekend's Six Nations opener following a discipline breach last week, but is along with Hogg one of the 15 nominees announced by European club rugby's governing body today.
Racing 92 player Russell, 27, has had a stellar 2019 for the French giants but won't be involved on Saturday when Scotland face Ireland in Dublin after he left the team hotel a week past Sunday and didn't show up for training last Monday.
Full-back Hogg, also 27, left Glasgow Warriors for English league leaders Exeter Chiefs last summer and since the World Cup in Japan has been in superb form for his new club. Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named the two-time British and Irish Lions tourist and Six Nations player of the tournament in 2016 and 2017 as his new Scotland captain for the upcoming tournament,
Players from seven clubs representing all three of Europe’s leading professional leagues are among the 15 nominees for the award.
Leinster, the No 1-ranked club going into the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals have three players – Tadhg Furlong, Jordan Larmour and Garry Ringrose – included in the list by an expert panel of judges, while Racing 92 and the Exeter Chiefs also have three nominees.
The in-form Racing 92 trio of Russell, Teddy Thomas and Virimi Vakatawa are joined by the Exeter trio of Hogg, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds .
The Toulouse pair of Jerome Kaino and Romain Ntamack get the vote of the judges along with Marcell Coetzee and John Cooney who have been included on the back of their outstanding displays for Ulster during the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage.
ASM Clermont Auvergne centre, George Moala, is also nominated while the brilliant Semi Radradra completes the list on behalf of Challenge Cup quarter-finalists Bordeaux-Bègles.
The winner will receive a specially-struck gold medal as well as the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy.
Voting for the award is now open here https://www.epcrugby.com/european-professional-club-rugby/european-player-of-the-year/ and fans will be in the running to win two VIP tickets to the Heineken Champions Cup final in Marseille next May with one night’s accommodation courtesy of EPCR, 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 in the initial list of 15, but who make a significant impact in a quarter-final or semi-final match, may be considered for the shortlist.
The voting will then re-open and the winner of the 2020 award will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final at the Stade Vélodrome, Marseille on Saturday, 23 May.
EPCR European Player of the Year 2020 award nominees:
Marcell COETZEE (Ulster Rugby)
John COONEY (Ulster Rugby)
Luke COWAN-DICKIE (Exeter Chiefs)
Tadhg FURLONG (Leinster Rugby)
Stuart HOGG (Exeter Chiefs)
Jerome KAINO (Toulouse)
Jordan LARMOUR (Leinster Rugby)
George MOALA (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
Romain NTAMACK (Toulouse)
Semi RADRADRA (Bordeaux-Bègles)
Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)
Finn RUSSELL (Racing 92)
Sam SIMMONDS (Exeter Chiefs)
Teddy THOMAS (Racing 92)
Virimi VAKATAWA (Racing 92)
Judging Panel: Erik Bonneval (beIN SPORTS), Bryan Habana (Channel 4), Emmanuel Massicard (Midi Olympique), Sonja McLaughlan (BBC Radio 5 Live), Brian O’Driscoll (BT Sport), Alan Quinlan (Virgin Media), Dimitri Yachvili (France Télévisions)
Roll of Honour – 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)