England trio named on World Rugby's player award shortlist
England trio Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola feature on a six-strong shortlist for World Rugby men's player of the year for 2016.
Also included among the nominees is Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip, who started Saturday's historic 40-29 victory over New Zealand in Chicago.
Completing the list of contenders are All Blacks Dane Coles and Beauden Barrett, with the winner to be announced on Sunday.
Itoje, Farrell and Vunipola have played starring roles in England amassing a 10-Test winning run, nine of them falling under the guidance of head coach Eddie Jones.
The results brought with them a Grand Slam and 3-0 series whitewash of Australia in June.
The trio were also involved in Saracens' march to a European and Aviva Premiership double.
"There is class in abundance on this shortlist. There is also a great mix of experienced, proven campaigners and exciting young talent," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said.
England captain and number eight Sarah Hunter has been shortlisted for the woman's player of the year award, joining Fiao'o Fa'amausili of New Zealand and France's Gaelle Mignot.
Both shortlists were selected by independent panels featuring former internationals and members of the media, who used every major Test from the RBS 6 Nations through to those on 5 November to reach their decisions.
"It is testament to the current strength of the men's and women's 15s game that there was so much competition for these prestigious awards," Beaumont said.
"With Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 just around the corner it is great to see such strong competition for the women's award.
"Hunter, Fa'amausili and Mignot have been exceptional and thoroughly deserve their place on the shortlist."