The International Rugby Board has confirmed a shortlist of four nominees for the IRB Junior Player of the Year 2014 Award, with the winner set to be announced following the final at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
Finalists South Africa and England each have a player nominated in captain Handré Pollard and wing Nathan Earle respectively, with Ireland centre Garry Ringrose and New Zealand wing Tevita Li completing the quartet of players.
The management of the 12 teams involved in the IRB Junior World Championship 2014 in New Zealand voted on their top three players after each round with votes tallied to provide the shortlist of nominees.
The public now has the chance to vote on this shortlist on the official Facebook page www.facebook.com/irbjuniors. The results of the public poll will be considered, along with the original votes, when finalising the winner.
Nathan Earle (England)
The wing announced himself on the Junior World Championship stage with a bang, scoring the first hat-trick of the tournament against Italy on day one, his pace and mazy running simply too much for the Azzurrini to handle. The 19-year-old followed that up with another brace against Australia in their next match and, while he hasn’t crossed the whitewash since, his breaks have led to other tries to help England retain the hope of defending their title.
Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
With Irish rugby fans asking the question who will fill the 13 jersey now that Brian O’Driscoll has retired, the answer could lie in 19-year-old Ringrose who has carried well and repeatedly got over the gain-line to help Ireland reach a first JWC semi-final. A lovely straight runner, Ringrose has scored three tries in the tournament, two in the decisive bonus point win over Wales and one in the semi-final loss to England. He is also an accomplished kicker as he proved with 11 points in the final pool victory over Fiji.
Handré Pollard (South Africa)
A player who already has a Junior World Championship winners’ medal to his name from South Africa’s success on home soil in 2012, Pollard now holds the responsibility of captaincy in what is his third experience of the tournament. With a maturity beyond his years, the Blue Bulls fly half is a calming influence on his teammates but also a natural leader. In the semi-final he became both the leading point scorer at JWC 2014 and also in the competition’s history. Pollard’s performances in the tournament have led some to suggest him as a possible bolter for South Africa’s squad for RWC 2015.
Tevita Li (New Zealand)
The New Zealand wing only linked up with the Under 20 squad on the eve of the tournament due to his Super Rugby commitments with the Blues, but that experience has shone through in his performances. A wing blessed with pace and power, Li was one bright spark for New Zealand in their pool loss to South Africa with a hat-trick. The 19-year-old, who has scored five tries in the tournament, will hope to follow in the footsteps of former Under 20 wings Julian Savea and Charles Piutau by graduating to the All Blacks in the years ahead.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB Junior World Championship is a finishing school for the future stars of world rugby and the character-building experiences learned on and off the field in New Zealand will serve the class of 2014 very well.”
“Once again we have been treated to a wonderful tournament of great quality, excitement and competition and I am looking forward to seeing the young players who have proudly represented their countries step up and thrill fans watching future Rugby World Cups.”
“It is always such a difficult task to select a shortlist from such talent, but the four players nominated for the prestigious IRB Junior Player of the Year thoroughly deserve their place, having been nominated by their peers and their opposition.”
“We can now look forward to a mouth-watering climax to the IRB Junior World Championship and the crowning of the champions and our Player of the Year.”
For more details on the IRB Awards, click here.
2013 – IRB Junior Player of the Year: Sam Davies (Wales)
2012 – IRB Junior Player of the Year: Jan Serfontein (South Africa)
2011 – IRB Junior Player of the Year: George Ford (England)
2010 – IRB Junior Player of the Year: Julian Savea (New Zealand)
2009 – IRB Junior Player of the Year: Aaron Cruden (New Zealand)
2008 – IRB Junior Player of the Year: Luke Braid (New Zealand)
2007 – IRB International Under 19 Player of the Year: Robert Fruean (New Zealand)
2006 – IRB International Under 19 Player of the Year: Josh Holmes (Australia)
2006 – IRB International Under 21 Player of the Year: Lionel Beauxis (France)
2005 – IRB International Under 19 Player of the Year: Isaia Toeava (New Zealand)
2005 – IRB International Under 21 Player of the Year: Tatafua Polota-Nau (Australia)
2004 – IRB International Under 19 Player of the Year: Jeremy Thrush (New Zealand)
2004 – IRB International Under 21 Player of the Year in association with Waterford Crystal: Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)
2003 – IRB Under 19 Player of the Year: Jean Baptiste Payras (France)
2003 – IRB Under 21 Player of the Year in association with Waterford Crystal: Ben Atiga (New Zealand)
2002 – IRB Under 19 Player of the Year: Luke McAlister (New Zealand)
2002 – IRB Under 21 Player of the Year in association with Waterford Crystal: Pat Barnard (South Africa)
2001 – IRB Young Player of the Year: Gavin Henson (Wales)