New Zealand captain Richie McCaw is in contention to win the IRB Player of the Year award for a fourth time after being included in a four-man shortlist for the 2012 prize.
All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter also made the cut on Wednesday with two surprising entries – back-up England No. 10 Owen Farrell and another flyhalf, the rejuvenated Frederic Michalak of France.
McCaw is the only player to have received the accolade more than once in its 11-year history, having won in 2006, ’09 and ’10. Carter won it in 2005.
“All four players on the shortlist thoroughly deserve their place after standout performances during the year and consistency in the tough environment that is test rugby”
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset
McCaw is the most capped All Black in history with 115 tests and 19 tries and this year he became the first player to win 100 tests and most as captain.
He will take a six month sabbatical from the game in 2013.
His All Black teammate Dan Carter injured a groin in 2011 that ruled him out of most of New Zealand’s triumphant World Cup campaign, but he has bounced back in style to become the leading point-scorer in test rugby in 2012.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said that it had been a difficult choice to select only four candidates.
“As ever, the competition has been fierce and the panel had a tough time deliberating the shortlist from a number of stand-out candidates,” Lapasse said.
“All four players on the shortlist thoroughly deserve their place after standout performances during the year and consistency in the tough environment that is test rugby.”
The winner will be announced on December 3, along with IRB Coach of the Year and IRB Team of the Year.
For the third year in a row the shortlist includes a player to have graduated from the IRB Junior World Championship to the test arena with Farrell following in the footsteps of Australian trio David Pocock, Will Genia and Kurtley Beale.
Farrell made his England debut as flyhalf in the opening Six Nations match against Scotland at Murrayfield and played in the test series loss in South Africa.
He turned 21 in September and is vying for the No. 10 shirt with Toby Flood. Farrell is the son of former England dual code international Andy Farrell, who is now an assistant coach of the national team.
Michalak was recalled to the France national team after an absence of more than two years by coach Philippe Saint-Andre for the June tour to Argentina.
Michalak has been the architect of Les Bleus’ run of four consecutive victories over Argentina (twice), Australia and Samoa which have secured them a top-four seeding spot in the IRB world rankings for the 2015 World Cup.
That means they will avoid the top three southern hemisphere teams in the pool stage.
The rejuvenated flyhalf has returned from another spell in Super Rugby with the Sharks to reignite an international career that looked to have stalled with just four appearances since the 2007 World Cup.
The IRB Player of the Year nominees were selected by the IRB Awards independent panel of judges, which is chaired by former Australia captain John Eales – who won the 1991 and ’99 World Cups – and is made up of former internationals with more than 500 caps between them.
The panel comprises Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphael Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustin Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace.
France flanker Thierry Dusautoir won the 2011 award.