England have three nominees for the 2017 Six Nations Player of the Championship award but there was no room for Wales’s Sam Warburton on the 12-man shortlist.
Centre Owen Farrell, loose forward Maro Itoje and second row Joe Launchbury have all been included after England sealed a second successive Six Nations title under Eddie Jones.
The other home nations each have two representatives. Last year’s winner Stuart Hogg, the Scotland full-back, is selected along with fly-half Finn Russell.
For Ireland, scrum-half Conor Murray and back row CJ Stander make the cut while the Wales pair of scrum-half Rhys Webb and hooker Ken Owens are also included after excellent tournaments that have propelled them up the Lions pecking order.
The omission of Warburton is the biggest surprise. After losing the Wales captaincy and then switching to blindside, Warburton has rediscovered his best form and his odds of being named Lions captain for a second successive series are tumbling fast.
France also have two nominees in fly-half Camille Lopez, who scored 67 points to finish as the tournament’s leading points scorer, and the consistently outstanding Louis Picamoles.
Probably the least deserved inclusion is Italy’s Sergio Parisse, a perennial presence on these shortlists but well below his usual superhuman standards in this tournament.
The vote closes on Wednesday night and, if past years are any guide, it is anyone’s guess as to who will be awarded the trophy.
Hogg won last year in spite of England’s Grand Slam. More preposterous still was Italian utility-back Andrea Masi collecting the award in the 2011 tournament when the Azzurri won just a single game.
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- Maro Itoje
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- Owen Farrell
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