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Sexton nominated for World Player of the Year

Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton has made the short-list of nominees for the prestigious IRB World Rugby Player of the Year Award.

The only previous Irish winner of the global award was the first, hooker Keith Wood in 2001.

Since then, New Zealand have dominated the winners' podium, with Richie McCaw receiving it an incredible three times in 2006, 2009 and 2010.

Of course, the middle accolade was dogged by controversy over the omission of Brian O'Driscoll based on his defining influence over Ireland's first Grand Slam in 61 years.

All Black out-half Dan Carter has merited the award twice in 2005 and 2012 with their number eight Kieran Read, the current holder of the honour, unable to maintain the highest standards this year.

There are two New Zealanders in the high-class field of five with second row Brodie Retallick and wing sensation Julian Savea joined by Springbok full-back Willie le Roux and number eight Duane Vermeulen

Sexton rounds out the quintet, primarily as the main playmaker behind Ireland's drive towards the 2014 Six Nations, capped by a remarkable epic victory over France at Stade de France.

"All of these nominees have enjoyed stellar years and the focus on who will claim this accolade will add an extra dimension to the remaining November Tests," said John Eales, Chairman of the independent IRB Awards panel.

Interestingly, the list of judges comprises entirely of a select band of former players in Eales, Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace.

They have gone into great detail in pouring over every major Test played in 2014, culminating with the November internationals.

"As always the panelists' independent deliberations have produced a worthy list of contenders among a strong field," said Eales.

"It has been a year where we have seen a levelling in competition with an unpredictability in so many games now.

"With a spread of a couple of outside backs, a fly-half, a back-rower and a lock in contention it is not going to be an easy selection to determine the Player of the Year."