TWO OF the brightest young stars in English rugby have emerged from the first set of matches in the Anglo-Welsh Cup to become the first players shortlisted for the competition’s Breakthrough Player Award.
Bath Rugby’s Zach Mercer and Josh Adams from Worcester Warriors were judged by the statisticians at Opta to have made the biggest impact at the weekend.
This year the competition is being supported by Citizen Watch UK who will provide the overall winner with the latest Citizen Skyhawk A-T watch and Gilbert who will supply £1,000 worth of kit to a grassroots club of the winner’s choice.
The competition is open to the best Under-23 players in the Anglo-Welsh Cup with shortlisted players being named after each round. A public vote will decide the winner ahead of the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final, which is on Sunday 19 March at the Twickenham Stoop.
Zach Mercer, the 19 year-old Bath Rugby back rower had an impressive game against Leicester Tigers, despite his side slipping to an agonising one-point defeat.
Mercer made more carries (19) than any other player during the opening weekend of the Anglo-Welsh Cup, gaining the second most metres (89) of any forward and the fifth most overall.
He was solid in defence and was part of a strong Bath lineout unit, taking four lineouts for his side. Although he didn’t get the try his tireless carrying deserved, he managed to assist one of Bath Rugby’s three tries, putting Jeff Williams through for Bath Rugby’s second try of the night.
LOs Won: 4
Defenders Beaten: 3
Mercer is joined on the shortlist by Worcester Warriors’ Josh Adams, who put on an impressive display on Friday night, crossing the try line twice for his side as they recorded a try bonus point win over Bristol Rugby.
The 21-year-old was involved in three of Worcester’s five tries as he also provided an assist for his side. Adams made three clean breaks on the night, a tally no other player could better in the opening round of action while his 95 metre gain was the third most of any player. He was also solid in defence, completing all his tackles in an excellent all-round display.
Try Assists: 1
Tackle percentage: 100%
Clean Breaks: 3
Launched in 2012, the Breakthrough Player Award celebrates and recognises those young players who have stood out in the tournament with previous winners including Jack Nowell, Jonny May, Tom Collins and Ollie Devoto.
Using Opta match statistics, a forward and back from each round, along with two players with outstanding overall competition statistics will form a shortlist, which will be submitted to a fan vote on www.new-heroes.com after Round 4 (4-6 February). The winner will be announced prior to the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final.