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01st Feb 2023

Gavin Coombes and four Leinster stars nominated for European Player of the Year

Patrick McCarry

Gavin Coombes

The longlist has been announced, but there’s a ways to go yet.

The EPCR has confirmed its’ long-list of nominees for the 2022/23 Player of the Year award and Gavin Coombes of Munster is joined by four Leinster stars.

Each season, at the end of the pool stages, the tournament organisers assemble an elite panel of pundits, former players and coaches to come up with a long-list, ahead of the knock-out stages. That list gets refined over the course of the competition but pool stage performances are taken into context when a final decision is made.

Last season, Josh van der Flier was announced the winner despite his Leinster side losing to La Rochelle in the Champions Cup final. Jimmy O’Brien, his teammate, was not on the initial 2021/22 long-list but his knock-out stage performances saw him included in the final conversation. Van der Flier is nominated again, this season, while Coombes’ fine Munster form has been acknowledged.

On the latest House of Rugby, [LISTEN from 39:20 below], Greg O’Shea, Lindsay Peat and Jason Hennessy debated whether Gavin Coombes could go straight into the Ireland back-row or, at least, bench for their Six Nations opener against Wales.

Gavin CoombesGavin Coombes, left, and Nick Timoney during Ireland Rugby squad training, in 2022. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Starting Gavin Coombes against Wales

“Do you go Jack Conan or Gavin Coombes on your bench?” Jason Hennessy pondered aloud on House of Rugby. Lindsay Peat had a bolder notion.

“I went with Gavin Coombes at 8 in my Ireland starting 15,” she said. “So, Caelan Doris at blindside, Josh van der Flier openside and Coombes 8, with Pete O’Mahony on the bench. I wenmt with physicality against the Welsh, to be honest with you, that’s why he starts, tough as it is to leave Jack Conan out.”

Coombes, van der Flier and the rest of the Irish back row candidates will already know who is starting, and on the bench, for the Wales game. The general public will find out on Thursday when the IRFU announce Andy Farrell’s selection.

Another player that will be buoyed by the nomination, heading into Saturday’s game, is Caelan Doris. Also nominated from Leinster is Garry Ringrose and Jamie Osborne, who could both start in the Ireland midfield against the Welsh.

2023 EPCR PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES

Grégory ALLDRITT (Stade Rochelais)
Gavin COOMBES (Munster Rugby)
Caelan DORIS (Leinster Rugby)
Elliot DALY (Saracens)
Antoine DUPONT (Stade Toulousain)
Eben ETZEBETH (Cell C Sharks)
Jaden HENDRIKSE (Cell C Sharks)
Siya KOLISI (Cell C Sharks)
Makazole MAPIMPI (Cell C Sharks)
Julien MARCHAND (Stade Toulousain)
Emmanuel MEAFOU (Stade Toulousain)
Jamie OSBORNE (Leinster Rugby)
Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)
Justin TIPURIC (Ospreys)
Josh VAN DER FLIER (Leinster Rugby)

Judging Panel – Bryan Habana (two-time Heineken Champions Cup winner), Sarah Hunter (former England captain), Elma Smit (sports presenter and producer), Andy Goode (two-time Heineken Cup winner), Dimitri Yachvili (France Télévisions and Challenge Cup winner)

For anyone super keen to cast an early vote, one can do so HERE.

WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY:

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