Sale Sharks’ Sam James praised his influential family after being nominated for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season Award.
Versatile back James joins Leicester Tiger Harry Thacker. Northampton’s Paul Hill, Saracen Maro Itoje, Harlequin Jack Clifford 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.
The winner of the Land Rover Discovery of the Season will be named at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards at the London Hilton, Park Lane presented by BT Sport's Craig Doyle on 18 May.
Sale Sharks handed 21-year-old James his Aviva Premiership Rugby debut against Northampton Saints in April 2014 and he has made 21 appearances, scoring five tries, in the league this season.
“My dad Neil played rugby, he and my younger brother have been big influences on my career,” he said.
“My dad used to be my coach and was always pushing my ability. It’s a good feeling to make him feel that all his hard work has been worth it.
“He was watching the news and was the first to notice my nomination. I was in Newcastle at the time so he dropped me an email because he doesn’t have a phone. He’s obviously really proud.
“I was very surprised; it was a bit of a shock, it’s an honour to be grouped in this category. Obviously it’s a dream season for me, my breakthrough season, I was happy to get the starts I did.”
With Sale finishing sixth in the league, James is excited to get his first taste of European Rugby Champions Cup action after making three Challenge Cup appearances this season, scoring one try.
“We are more than happy to finish sixth and to have qualified for Champions Cup next season. It is something we are all looking forward to,” James added.
“It’s another new experience, I watched the lads last year in a tough group.
“I think we are all just looking forward to the challenge of playing the best teams in Europe. It’s going to be another step up.”
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.
The winners will be announced first on Twitter via the @premrugby account. Use hashtag #AvivaPremAwards to join the conversation or follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal.