Irish-based trio on ERC award longlist

Simon Zebo scored a hat-trick of tries as Munster booked their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-final

Three Irish-based players - Ruan Piennaar, Rory Best and Simon Zebo - are among 15 players nominated for the ERC European Player of the Year.

The other players nominated are Steffon Armitage, Julien Bonnaire, Mike Brown, Dan Cole, Owen Farrell, Wesley Fofana, Mamuka Gorgodze, Charliw Hodgson, James Johnston, Joe Launchbury, Morgan Parra and Geoff Parling.

Piennaar also made the longlist for last year's award which was won by Rob Kearney.  

The judging panel will also have the option to consider additional players who make major contributions during the knockout stages of the Heinken and Amlion Cups before announcing a five-man shortlist following the semi-finals, with the overall winner named directly after the ERC European club finals in Dublin in May.

In addition to the decision of the panel, the 44 clubs in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup will have the opportunity to vote for contenders nominated in the shortlist while supporters can also have their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2013, and on the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup Facebook pages.