Trio vie for Junior Player of the Year award
July 7, 2011
Baby Blacks captain Luke Whitelock was instrumental as his side won the JWC for the fourth year running © Getty Images
The International Rugby Board have unveiled their shortlist for the IRB Junior Player of the Year 2011.
New Zealand made it four tournament wins in a row in the IRB Junior World Championship with thrilling 33-22 victory over England last month and the Baby Blacks' captain and No.8 Luke Whitelock and fellow back-row forward Sam Cane lead the chase for the award.
England, who pushed their undefeated rivals all the way in a scintillating final in Padova, are represented by 18-year-old fly-half George Ford with all three players coming out on top in a vote by head coaches, match officials and international and local media.
Speaking about his nomination, Ford insisted that it was an outstanding team effort in Italy. "It's a massive honour to be nominated for the award, especially when you consider that the likes of All Blacks regulars Luke McAllister and Isaia Toeava are among previous winners.
"It was a massive team effort over there though, and while we were gutted not to win the whole thing, we performed well throughout and can take a lot from the competition. I can't take too much credit for the nomination, we had a squad of 26 players who all played their part.
"Sam Cane and Luke Whitelock are both good players who I have massive respect for and they both deserve their nominations. A lot of our squad will be back next year ready to give it another go."
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset hailed the success of the tournament as whole, adding, "These three players excelled in Italy and they reflect the exciting talent that was on show in a tournament which continues to go from strength to strength. The quality of rugby played in Italy shows the important role this tournament plays in developing the future stars of the world Game."
Like the IRB Junior Championship itself, the award has been dominated by New Zealand with the likes of Aaron Cruden, Luke Braid and Robert Fruean among the recent winners while the roll of honour also includes Wales' Gavin Henson and Australia's Tatafu Polota-Nau.
The winner of this year's award will be announced at the IRB Awards in Auckland following the completion of the Rugby World Cup on October 24.
IRB Junior Player of the Year shortlist:
Sam Cane (New Zealand)
George Ford (England)
Luke Whitelock (New Zealand)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown