Sivivatu on European Player of the Year shortlist

Getty Images and James Mortimer     20 May 2013     Getty Images

Following the decision of the judges to nominate the in-form quintet of Julien Bonnaire, Wesley Fofana and Sitiveni Sivivatu (all ASM Clermont Auvergne) as well as Jamie Heaslip (Leinster Rugby) and Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon), the winner will be announced shortly after the conclusion of this weekend's Dublin 2013 finals.

The successful player will follow in the illustrious footsteps of the Leinster Rugby pair of Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien - winners in 2012 and 2011 respectively - while Munster Rugby's Ronan O'Gara was the inaugural recipient of the honour as the leading player over the first 15 years of both tournaments.

The start of the search to select Kearney's successor was based on player performances during the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup and a longlist of 15 players which was announced in January. The judges then had the option to consider players who made major contributions during the quarter-finals and semi-finals of both tournaments and on that basis, Heaslip, Sivivatu and Wilkinson forced their way into the shortlist.

Heaslip has been a key figure in Leinster's storming run to this evening's Amlin Challenge Cup final, while Sivivatu has been in irresistible form during Clermont push to tomorrow's Heineken Cup decider. As for the durable Wilkinson, he has been the undoubted inspiration behind Toulon's drive for a first European title both with the legendary accuracy of his goalkicking and his tactical acumen.

In addition to the decision of the judging panel, the 44 clubs in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup have had the opportunity to vote for contenders nominated on the shortlist while supporters have been having their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2013, as well as on the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup Facebook pages.

Julien Bonnaire
Club: ASM Clermont Auvergne
Age: 34
Position: Back row
Country: France (75 tests)
Heineken Cup apps: 57
Amlin CC apps: 5
2012/13 P 8 Pts 10 (2T)

Inspirational leader during Clermont's drive to a first Heineken Cup final. Superb all-round forward who has been consistency personified this season with a string of outstanding performances.

Wesley Fofana
Club: ASM Clermont Auvergne
Age: 25
Position: Centre
Country: France (15 tests)
Heineken Cup apps: 22
2012/13 P 7 Pts 25 (5 tries)

If Bonnaire has been the stabilising influence, Fofana has once again proved to be Clermont's razor-sharp cutting edge. Moved to the wing by France but a constant threat in his best position of centre for Clermont with five tries to his name in the current campaign.

Jamie Heaslip
Club: Leinster Rugby
Age: 29
Position: No 8
Country: Ireland (57 tests)
Heineken Cup apps: 59
Amlin CC apps: 3
2012/13 P 8 Pts 15 (3T)

Extremely solid, if unspectacular, in the early stage of Leinster's European campaign, Heaslii has exploded into peak form in the knockout phase of the Amlin Challenge Cup with stand-out displays against both London Wasps and Biarritz.

Sitiveni Sivivatu
Club: ASM Clermont Auvergne
Position: Wing
Country: New Zealand (45 tests)
Age: 31
Heineken Cup apps: 13
2012/13 P 7 Pts 15 (3T)

An inspired signing by Clermont, Sivivatu might have been overshadowed by the brilliance of Fofana in the pool stage, but he has been devastating in the knockout games producing moments of breathtaking class particularly in the quarter-final win over Montpellier.

Jonny Wilkinson
Club: Toulon
Age: 33
Position: Out half
Country: England (91 tests)
Heineken Cup apps: 20
Amlin CC apps: 37
2012/13 P 8 Pts 97 (25P, 2DG, 8C)

Toulon are more than a one-man band but Wilkinson undoubtedly wields the conductor's baton. Approaching 100 points for the Heineken Cup season, he was responsible for all of his team's 45 points in the knockout games to date. Playing some of the best rugby of his career.

ERC panel of judges
Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Will Greenwood (Daily Telegraph, World Cup winner and two-time Challenge Cup winner), Stephen Jones (Rugby Correspondent, Sunday Times), Jacques Verdier (Director, Midi Olympique), Gerry Thornley (Rugby Correspondent, Irish Times)