Three of England’s Six Nations title-winning squad have been included on the shortlist for the Player of the Championship award, but there is no place on the 12-man shortlist for Wales flanker Sam Warburton.
The former Wales captain put in a string of brilliant displays throughout the campaign that has not only put him right back in the British and Irish Lions mix, but led to bookmakers’ installing the flanker as the favourite to lead the squad for a second consecutive tour after guiding the 2-1 series victory over Australia four years’ ago.
Warburton relinquished the Wales captaincy ahead of this year’s Six Nations, with lock Alun Wyn Jones taking on the responsibility, but both miss out on a player of the championship nomination with their two teammates, scrum-half Rhys Webb and hooker Ken Owens, making the shortlist.
England are represented by flanker Maro Itoje, lock Joe Launchbury and award-favourite Owen Farrell, whose displays at centre and fly-half helped England to a second straight Six Nations title. However, England were not able to secure back-to-back Grand Slams, with Ireland inflicting a 13-9 defeat in the tournament’s final match in Dublin, and both Conor Murray and CJ Stander are nominated for their efforts during the campaign.
Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg and fly-half Finn Russell are included, along with France stand-off Camille Lopez and No 8 Louis Picamoles.
Despite failing to record a single point in the Six Nations table, Italy are represented by talismanic captain Sergio Parisse, although his inclusion over Warburton does raise eyebrows given that Italy recorded their worst ever points difference since joining the Six Nations in 2000.
The award is a public vote that closes at midday on Tuesday, and has ben dominated by Irish players since it was first handed out in 2004, with Brian O’Driscoll holding the record for the most wins with his three triumphs. The only English recipient of the award was full-back Mike Brown in 2014, with Scotland’s Hogg claiming it last season.