O'Driscoll heads player of the year nominees

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The Independent Online

Brian O'Driscoll leads the nominations for the International Rugby Board player of the year as one of two Irish players on the shortlist.

Number eight Jamie Heaslip appears alongside O'Driscoll in recognition of the duo's contribution towards Ireland's Grand Slam triumph and the summer Lions tour to South Africa.



Their Lions team-mate Tom Croft is England's solitary representative, completing the northern hemisphere's contingent.



Following the closest vote in the award's history, it was decided to extend the list from its traditional number of five players to seven.



Perennial nominee and New Zealand openside Richie McCaw features, as does Australia fly-half Matt Giteau.



South Africa, who defeated the Lions and won this season's Tri-Nations, are represented by Francois Steyn and Fourie du Preez, to complete the list.



O'Driscoll will be favourite to become the second Irishman to be named player of the year with Keith Wood winning the inaugural vote in 2001.



The Ireland captain's match-saving try upon his 100th Test appearance in yesterday's 20-20 draw with Australia will have done his cause no harm.



It continues a seismic year for O'Driscoll, who emerged from the RBS 6 Nations as player of the tournament having led Ireland to only their second Grand Slam.



He then rescaled those heights during the Lions series against the Springboks until concussion forced him home after the second Test.



The winner will be announced, together with the IRB coach of the year and IRB team of the year, during the final weekend of November Tests.



The nominees were selected by the IRB awards independent panel of judges, comprising former internationals with over 500 Test caps between them.



Wales winger Shane Williams is the reigning IRB world player of the year.



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