ASM Clermont Auvergne full back Nick Abendanon has been named as the EPCR European Player of the Year 2015 after an outstanding individual performance in the European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.
The 28 year-old capped an excellent European campaign with a try-scoring performance in the final and, despite his club’s loss to RC Toulon, he topped the EPCR attack stats for the showpiece final with 155 metres made from 17 carries.
The 2008 Challenge Cup winner started all of Clermont’s nine European Rugby Champions Cup matches at full back and in his 693 minutes on the field made a massive contribution to his club’s run to a second European Cup final.
The EPCR Champions Cup tournament stats highlight the player’s consistent world-class performances throughout the European campaign with Abendanon topping four attack categories racking up 112 carries, 929 metres made, 13 clean breaks and beating 34 defenders on the way to scoring four tries.
The former England international received a specially struck EPCR gold medal in recognition of the prestigious accolade, which was presented by his teammates in Clermont-Ferrand today.
On being named EPCR European Player of the Year Nick Abendanon said; “It’s obviously a huge honour to receive this accolade, especially with the great players who have received it in years past. I want to thank everyone involved at Clermont for the help, support and character shown throughout the year. I realise that this is an individual award but it is, for me, a recognition of the players around me who have shown such resolve and endeavour during a tough European season. I would therefore like to accept it on behalf of the whole squad as a small consolation for Saturday’s disappointment”.
Abendanon is now included in a list of illustrious players who have won the highest individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby. Steffon Armitage, Man of the Match in the 2014 European decider, was last season’s winner while Jonny Wilkinson, who captained Toulon to their first European title, was the 2013 European Player of the Year. Previous winners were Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby 2012), Sean O’Brien(Leinster Rugby 2011) and Ronan O’Gara (Munster Rugby) who was the inaugural recipient in 2010 as the best player over the first 15 years of the European tournaments.
The task of deciding on the leading player of the European season was undertaken by an expert panel which comprised: Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports/The Sunday Times), Alan Quinlan (two-time Heineken Cup winner – Sky Sports/The Irish Times), Emmanuel Massicard (Editor, Midi Olympique), Mick Cleary (Rugby Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph), Dimitri Yachvili (Challenge Cup winner – beIN Sports)
The judging panel selected a longlist of 15 players based on performances during the pool stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup and that list was then reduced to five players following the quarter-finals and semi-finals weekends. European rugby supporters were able to have their say via the official tournaments Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages using #EPCRPlayer2015