Monday 24 September 2018

Furlong the early favourite to take award

Furlong has emerged as an early favourite. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Furlong has emerged as an early favourite. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Grand Slam quartet Conor Murray, Keith Earls, Tadhg Furlong and Johnny Sexton will slug it out for this year's Zurich Rugby Players' Player of the Year award.

Furlong has emerged as an early favourite but all four have strong claims to top the peers' poll when the winner is announced on May 16 at an awards night in Dublin.

Earls is the only one of the four not to earn a spot on last summer's Lions tour, which may prove uppermost in voters' minds, but his stunning impact in the Six Nations remains recent in the memory.

Furlong has emerged as the leading tighthead in the world and, in Murray and Sexton, the leading half-back pairing in the game, the difficulty in choosing a winner in an unbeaten season of international rugby is obvious.

Leinster duo James Ryan and Jordan Larmour are up for the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year award alongside Ulster's try-scoring machine Jacob Stockdale with Ryan the runaway favourite in this category.

Ireland captain Ciara Griffin, openside flanker Claire Molloy and centre Katie Fitzhenry are in contention for the Women's XV Player of the Year, with Molloy heavily favoured.

Lucy Molloy, Ashleigh Baxter and Stacey Flood make up the shortlist for the Women's Sevens Player of the Year.

IRP's Medal for Excellence, awarded to the individual who has shown exceptional commitment to the game of rugby on and off the field, will be decided between Grenoble's Duncan Casey, Connacht's Jake Heenan and Leinster's Rhys Ruddock.

There will also be a Try of the Year and an online vote - rugbyplayersireland.ie - for supporters' player of the year.

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