Wasps starlet Elliot Daly admits being given the chance to shine at No.13 has turned him into a whole new player, after being nominated for Aviva Premiership Rugby’s Land Rover Discovery of the Season award.
The gong aims to recognise the most impressive young players in Aviva Premiership Rugby each season, with the winner following in the footsteps of Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Joe Launchbury, and last year's recipient Billy Vunipola.
Performances in Test matches, European rugby and the LV= Cup are all taken into consideration, but with contribution in Aviva Premiership Rugby the main driver for selection, Daly can be confident his 18 starts for Wasps this season – and five tries to boot – will stand him in good stead.
But the 22-year-old centre insists he is focused only on continuing to improve week in, week out and take his game up another gear next season.
“It’s really unbelievable news for me,” he said. “To get nominated for that award by my peers is a really awesome feeling, and I can’t wait for the winner to be announced.
“I think it’s been a big season for me in terms of progress. At the start of the season Dai [Young] asked me where I would most like to play this year and I said at No.13.
“I’m really glad he’s given me that opportunity, and my thanks go to him for letting me play at outside centre this season.
“I feel that’s my best position and I really wanted to push on from last year – hopefully I’ve done that.
“I think as a No.13 you are tested quite a lot at protecting those outside channels, and I think I needed a good pre-season and some game-time to make sure my reads were right.
“Also I feel my attacking decision-making and my kicking game have come on too. I’ve been trying to work on a lot this year, and obviously I’ll be working on them even more next season to take my game to the next level.”
The winner will be announced at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards at the London Hilton on May 20, and Daly will have to pip Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford, and Exeter Chiefs duo Jack Nowell and Henry Slade if he is to claim the gong.
Meanwhile ahead of their final Aviva Premiership Rugby clash of the season this weekend, Daly believes his side have nothing to prove.
Despite failing to score a try in their 26-21 defeat to a stubborn Leicester Tigers last time out, Daly is adamant his side will rediscover the scoring touch this weekend with their first top-six finish in five seasons on the line.
“Maybe we lacked a little experience of playing crunch games of rugby at this time of the season,” he said. “On the day they were probably the better team and deserved to come away with the win.
“But at the start of the season we wanted to get into the top six, and if we win this weekend we’ll achieve that.
“We really, really want it, as we feel like we should be playing Champions Cup rugby next season, but we’ll have a tough task in London Irish.
“This year our attack has been in good shape and we’ve scored some great tries against very talented opposition, so maybe it was just that Leicester’s defence was particularly strong on the day and managed to keep us out.
“We kept turning the ball over, but we’re not thinking about it too much as we know we can score tries and hopefully we can prove that this weekend.”
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