The International Rugby Board has announced a shortlist of four nominees for IRB Sevens Player of the Year, the first of the IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline to be presented in 2010. The Winner will be announced at Murrayfield Stadium at the conclusion of the Emirates Airline Edinburgh Sevens on 29-30 May, the final event of the 2009/10 IRB Sevens World Series.
The shortlist comprises three Samoans and one Englishman reflecting the Islanders’ dominance in this year’s World Series as they stand on the brink of their first ever title following wins in Las Vegas, Adelaide and Hong Kong. Mikaele Pesamino, Lolo Lui and Alafoti Fa’osiliva will hope to emulate countryman Uale Mai, who scooped the award in 2006, whilst Ben Gollings could follow in the footsteps of former teammates Simon Amor and Ollie Phillips, the first and most recent winners of the coveted prize. All four players were nominated and voted on by the team management of the 12 core teams in the IRB Sevens World Series.
“The 2009/2010 IRB Sevens World Series has been the most competitive to date, delivering a feast of compelling action, spectacular tries and raising the bar once again in terms of attendance and broadcast figures as the sport continues to reach out to new audiences around the world,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“With the countdown to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro well under way, we are also seeing the emergence of new nations as title contenders. This shortlist reflects the exceptional season that Samoa has experienced, thrilling fans around the world, and as we look ahead to the Series climax all eyes will be on who will claim the ultimate individual accolade in Rugby Sevens.”
Alafoti Fa’osiliva, Samoa
With 23 tries this season the irrepressible Fa’osiliva is the top scorer among the out-and-out forwards on the circuit but his real value is in his rampaging runs and strong ball-winning ability. Combining strength and speed, he has been key to Samoa’s success and is a constant danger.
Ben Gollings, England
Ben Gollings is an iconic figure in Rugby Sevens and is the only current player from any side to have been involved in every IRB Sevens World Series since 1999. The proven match-winner has rediscovered past form this year to bring him back to his best. Gollings scored his 200th career Sevens try on home soil at Twickenham, making him only the second man to reach the prestigious landmark, and his 2,351 career points make him the leading all time points-scorer in IRB Sevens rugby, over 1,000 clear of the great Waisale Serevi.
Lolo Lui, Samoa
Samoa’s inspirational captain and an ever-present in the team this season, Lui has led his side to the verge of a thrilling first ever title. Lui is a hugely experienced operator at first receiver and was a member of Samoa’s Rugby World Cup 2007 squad. Class, flair and coolness under pressure are just some of his personal qualities which shine through the team.
Mikaele Pesamino, Samoa
The leading try-scorer in this year’s Series, Pesamino is a remarkable finisher, who combines pace off the mark with incredible levels of speed and endurance. He has proved the difference for his Samoa team many times, providing the vital spark which wins matches. His vision and remarkable eye for an intercept mean Pesamino has already scored 50 tries – 19 more than anyone else.
Previous IRB Sevens Player of the Year
2004 Simon Amor, England
2005 Orene Ai’i, New Zealand
2006 Uale Mai, Samoa
2007 Afeleke Pelenise, New Zealand
2008 DJ Forbes, New Zealand
2009 Ollie Phillips, England