At the start of the season Jack Clifford was targeting a regular place in the Harlequins’ back row featuring the England captain and a glut of other internationals.
Now the versatile forward has five England caps and a Grand Slam to his name – not to mention a nomination for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season Award.
Clifford joins Leicester Tiger Harry Thacker. Northampton’s Paul Hill, Saracen Maro Itoje, Sale’s Sam James and Saints’ Harry Mallinder on the short-list, with past winners of the gong including Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola.
The shortlist was compiled by Land Rover ambassador David Flatman, ESPN’S Tom Hamilton, ITV’s Nick Heath, Premiership Rugby Head of Academies and Development Mike Hynard, the Press Association’s Nick Purewal, Alex Lowe from The Times and BBC’s Sonja McLaughlan, while Premiership Rugby's Communications Director Paul Morgan chaired the panel.
Players aged under-23 on 16 October 2015 are eligible to win Land Rover Discovery of the Season and to make the shortlist, the player must have featured in five or more Aviva Premiership Rugby matches in the 2015-16 season.
And 23-year-old Clifford has made 21 appearances for Harlequins this season, cementing his place in their back row and scoring nine tries in the process.
“I was very flattered and humbled,” said Clifford of making the shortlist. “Looking at the young guys who have had amazing seasons, I am being held in high regard to be among them.
“Looking at the names on the list, what Maro did with England and for Saracens, Harry Thacker has had a hell of a season too, but you could say that about all of them.
“I don’t know if more young players are getting given a go in the Premiership now but the young ones that are given a go are stepping up and doing themselves, and other young players, proud – the young guys are showing their worth.”
Clifford was born in Brisbane, Australia, but moved to England as a youngster and captained the England under-18 side before skippering the under-20 side to World Cup glory in 2013.
He made his Harlequins’ debut against Northampton Saints in a 2012 Anglo-Welsh Cup tie and this season has gone on to captain the side in Danny Care’s absence.
“Personally, if I had been told at the beginning of the season that I would win a Grand Slam then I would’ve started laughing,” he added.
“But I’ve enjoyed it, every moment of the season. I have had great opportunities to play with some great players, and work with some great coaches. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and just hope it continues.
“I obviously wanted to play for England, but if you look at all my interviews from the start of the season then all I was interested in was getting in the Harlequins side.
“The guys we have got, Mat Luamanu has come in, then Luke Wallace has had such a good season, we’ve got Chris Robshaw, who is back to his best, and Nick Easter as well, that’s some back row so I was just thinking about getting in that team.”
The winner of the Land Rover Discovery of the Season will be named at a ceremony at the London Hilton, Park Lane presented by BT Sport's Craig Doyle on 18 May.
The Land Rover Discovery of the Season Award recognises the most impressive young Premiership Rugby players each season. The winner will be revealed at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards on 18 May.