Jamie Heaslip and Ian Madigan are the only two Irish nominees on the longlist for the European Rugby player of the year 2014/15. In fact, they are the only two Pro 12 representatives in a list dominated by French teams.
Clermont Auvergne lead the way with four nominations - Fritz Lee, Nick Abendanon, Camille Lopez and Aurelien Rougerie, Racing Metro have three - Juan Imhoff, Jamie Roberts, and Dimitri Szarzewski while Saracens and Toulon also have two each.
Interestingly, there are more French players that aren't in the France Six Nations squad nominated (2 - Szarzewski and Rougerie), than are in the France Six Nations squad (1 - Camille Lopez). Only seven nominees of the fifteen can make an appearance in the Six Nations such is the English and French selection policy and the influx of foreigners in the game.
This is the 6th year of the award with Madigan or Heaslip looking to be the 4th Irish winner of the award after Ronan O'Gara (2010), Sean O'Brien (2011) and Rob Kearney (2012). Steffon Armitage is in contention to defend his title, and Nicholas Sanchez could be the third Toulon winner of the award in three years.
European Rugby Player Of The Year Longlist:
ASM Clermont Auvergne - Nick Abendanon, Fritz Lee, Aurélien Rougerie, Camille Lopez.
Racing Metro 92 - Juan Imhoff, Dimitri Szarzewski, Jamie Roberts
Toulon - Steffon Armitage, Nicholas Sanchez
Saracens - Chris Ashton, Billy Vunipola
Leinster- Jamie Heaslip, Ian Madigan
Bath Rugby - Jamie Joseph
Northampton Saints - George North