The IRB has released their shortlist for player of the year in 2012, with Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Frederic Michalak not surprising most with their inclusion in the list of candidates. One name that has caused quite a stir is that of young Owen Farrell of England, barely 21, still without a firm grasp on a starting lineup shirt for the national team.

Dan Carter, All Blacks & Crusaders

The golden boy of New Zealand rugby and the poster child for all fly-halfs over the last decade still struggled with an injury early in 2012, but played a big part in yet another triumphant campaign for the All-Blacks in the new Rugby Championship and in other tests, including scoring a drop goal at the death vs Ireland in Christchurch back in June. He won this award in 2005.

Owen Farrell, England & Saracens

The surprise name in this year’s list, the 21 year old Centre/Fly-Half impressed many in England’s rather impressive 2012 Six Nations campaign, raising a lot of eyebrows as they only lost one game to Wales 10 months ago. He will get a chance to win back the no. 10 shirt by playing his first ever game against New Zealand this weekend, with a chance to reach a century of test match points.

Richie McCaw, New Zealand & Crusaders

The only player with numerous IRB awards, McCaw keeps on pushing the All Blacks to win after win, playing in all of their Rugby Championship matches this summer, currently sitting at 115 test matches. He’ll be taking a six month sabbatical in 2013, which will not only test his remaining hunger for the game, but New Zealand’s ability to cope without their captain.

Frederic Michalak, France & Toulon

An international career brought back to life; Michalak played only four test matches for France after the 2007 World Cup, but his return to the French national team after an absence of more than two years has been the center in their recent run of four consecutive wins over Argentina (x2), Australia and Samoa in an impressive rebuilding effort following the disappointing Six Nations performance.