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Two Ulster stars nominated for European Player of the Year

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John Cooney and Marcell Coetzee have both been nominated.

John Cooney and Marcell Coetzee have both been nominated.

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

John Cooney and Marcell Coetzee have both been nominated.

Two Ulster Rugby players have been nominated for the European Player of the Year award.

Both scrum-half John Cooney and influential back-row Marcell Coetzee have made the 15-player shortlist for the coveted award previously won by the likes of Maro Itoje, Jonny Wilkinson and Ronan O'Gara.

Cooney has been tipped to be named as Ireland's starting number nine for the upcoming Six Nations Championship, given the rise of his career since joining the northern province in 2017.

The 29-year-old has scored 165 points in 15 games so far this season, including nine tries as he continues to play an increasingly influential role in Ulster's improvements under Dan McFarland.

Even the Ireland coaching staff admitted the former Leinster and Connacht scrum-half was 'unfortunate' to miss out on a place in the World Cup panel despite playing limited minutes in last year's Six Nations.

His rise to potential first choice for the international side speaks volumes of his performances for Ulster.

Marcell Coetzee also makes it on to the list, having been named Ulster's Rugby Writers Player of the Year for the 18/19 season.

But for an untimely ankle injury, Coetzee could well be a World Cup winner. He had fought his way back from earlier knee issues to become a shoo-in for the South Africa squad, only to be ruled out after being injured during a warm-up win over Argentina.

Regardless, Coetzee returned to Ulster action in October and has since been his typically impressive self, even scoring his first try of the campaign against Bath earlier this month.

Leinster trio Tadhg Furlong, Jordan Larmour and Garry Ringrose are all on the shortlist while Racing 92 (Finn Russell, Teddy Thomas and Virimi Vakatawa) as well as the Exeter Chiefs (Luke Cowan-Dickie, Stuart Hogg and Sam Simmonds) also have three nominees each.

Jerome Kaino and Romain Ntamack of Toulouse are included along with ASM Clermont Auvergne centre George Moala as Bordeaux Begles' Semi Radradra completes the list.

You can vote for your European Player of the Year by following the link here.

The shortlist will be reduced to five after the European semi-finals, when played who have made a significant impact on the knock-out rounds may be added before voting reopens.

The winner will be crowned at the Heineken Champions Cup final in Marseille on Saturday, May 23.

Previous winners - 2019: Alex Goode (Saracens); 2018: Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92); 2017: Owen Farrell (Saracens); 2016: Maro Itoje (Saracens); 2015: Nick Abendanon (ASM Clermont Auvergne); 2014: Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon); 2013: Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon); 2012: Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby); 2011: Sean O’Brien (Leinster Rugby); 2010: Ronan O’Gara (Munster Rugby – best player of first 15 years of European professional club competitions)

Belfast Telegraph