IRB Junior World Championship
Trio vie for Junior Player of the Year award
ESPNscrum Staff
July 7, 2011
New Zealand captain Luke Whitelock lifts the IRB JWC trophy, England v New Zealand, IRB Junior World Championship, Stadio Plebiscito, Padova, Italy, June 26, 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)
A member of New Zealand's impressive and hard-working loose forward trio in Italy, Cane was the first player to score a hat-trick at the 2011 JWC with his efforts in the Baby Blacks' 92-0 rout of Wales. One of a handful of players in the New Zealand Under 20 squad with Super Rugby experience, the Waikato Chiefs flanker's potential was recognised early on.

George Ford (England)
The youngest player in the tournament, Ford's skills belie his tender age of 18 years and three months. Described as a "very mature player" and someone who "sets the tone in the squad" by England Under 20 coach Rob Hunter, Ford always seems to have options and more often than not takes the right one. The youngest player ever to play a professional match in England, the Leicester Tigers teenager played a key role in England's run to the final and scored 51 points in the tournament.

Luke Whitelock (New Zealand)
A true leader on and off the pitch and always ready to put his body on the line for the team, Whitelock lifted the distinctive trophy in Padova after guiding New Zealand to a fourth successive title. One of a very select few to have two winners' medals to his name, Whitelock is a danger at both flanker and number 8 with his work rate and game sense. Whitelock is the youngest of four rugby playing brothers, two of whom are already All Blacks.

Previous Winners:
2010 - IRB Junior Player of the Year: Julian Savea (New Zealand)
2009 - IRB Junior Player of the Year: Aaron Cruden (New Zealand)
2008 - IRB Junior Player of the Year: Luke Braid (New Zealand)
2007 - IRB International U19 Player of the Year: Robert Fruean (New Zealand)
2006 - IRB International U19 Player of the Year: Josh Holmes (Australia)
2006 - IRB International U21 Player of the Year: Lionel Beauxis (France)
2005 - IRB International U19 Player of the Year: Isaia Toeava (New Zealand)
2005 - IRB International U21 Player of the Year: Tatafu Polota-Nau (Australia)
2004 - IRB International U19 Player of the Year: Jeremy Thrush (New Zealand)
2004 - IRB International U21 Player of the Year: Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)
2003 - IRB U19 Player of the Year: Jean Baptiste Payras (France)
2003 - IRB U21 Player of the Year: Ben Atiga (New Zealand)
2002 - IRB U19 Player of the Year: Luke McAlister (New Zealand)
2002 - IRB U21 Player of the Year: Pat Barnard (South Africa)
2001 - IRB Young Player of the Year: Gavin Henson (Wales)

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