Dublin - New Zealand captain Richie McCaw is in contention to win the IRB Player of the Year award for a fourth time after being included in a four-man shortlist for the 2012 prize.
All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter also made the cut on Wednesday along with two surprising entries - back-up England No. 10 Owen Farrell and another flyhalf - the rejuvenated Frederic Michalak of France.
McCaw is the only player to have received the accolade more than once in its 11-year history, having won in 2006, 2009 and 2010. Carter won it in 2005.
The IRB highlighted Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, New Zealand No. 8 Kieran Read and South Africa winger Bryan Habana among players who were unlucky to miss out on the shortlist.
“No Lobbe?! He's been immense,” Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll said on Twitter.
McCaw became this year the first player to win 100 tests and he has the most victories as captain. The IRB said McCaw, who will take a six month sabbatical from the game in 2013, continues to be “the benchmark by which all openside flankers are judged”.
While Carter, the leading points-scorer in test rugby, is a fixture on awards shortlist, the same can't be said of Farrell and Michalak.
Farrell, the son of former England dual code international Andy Farrell, isn't a regular in either the England or Saracens first team. But the 21-year-old flyhalf has shown glimpses of his promise in both the international and club stage this season.
Michalak was recalled to the France team, after an absence of more than two years, by coach Philippe Saint-Andre in June and was the architect of Les Bleus' run of four consecutive victories over Argentina (twice), Australia and Samoa which have secured them a top-four seeding spot in the IRB world rankings for the 2015 World Cup. That means they will avoid the top three southern hemisphere teams in the pool stage.
“All four players on the shortlist thoroughly deserve their place after standout performances during the year and consistency in the tough environment that is test rugby,” IRB chairperson Bernard Lapasset said.
The winner, chosen by a panel of international greats, will be announced on December 3, along with IRB Coach of the Year and IRB Team of the Year.
France flanker Thierry Dusautoir captured the 2011 award. - Sapa-AP