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.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra