Premiership Rugby today confirmed that five of the brightest young players in English rugby have been shortlisted for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award.
Two players from Exeter Chiefs and one each from Harlequins, Saracens, and Wasps have emerged in the race to find the best Under-23 player in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
The 2014-15 season has been a stellar campaign for young players in Aviva Premiership Rugby as the season reaches its trademark dramatic conclusion.
The full Land Rover Discovery of The Season shortlist is:
- Jack Clifford – Harlequins
- Elliot Daly – Wasps
- Maro Itoje – Saracens
- Jack Nowell – Exeter Chiefs
- Henry Slade – Exeter Chiefs
The winner will be announced at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards at the London Hilton, Park Lane on 20 May.
"This is a hugely impressive group of young players. Jack Nowell already has a full England cap and I would expect to see the other four in England colours in the next few years," said Mike Hynard Premiership Rugby's Head of Academies and Development.
"More academy graduates are breaking through into Aviva Premiership Rugby sides every season and we are very proud of this generation after seeing them win back-to-back Junior World Cups. The quality of these young players is very impressive indeed and I would expect them to become integral to the success of their club teams but also establish themselves in the England squad in the next couple of years. The future is very bright for English rugby which is a direct result of the expertise, hard work and increasing investment into the Premiership Rugby clubs' academy programmes.
"Year on year the academy programmes are better staffed with quality coaches to ensure a more efficient and effective talent identification and player development system that maximises the potential of the talent within it."
The Land Rover Discovery of The Season award is designed to recognise the most impressive young players in the Aviva Premiership Rugby each season and reward them for their outstanding contribution to the competition.
The winner will follow in the footsteps of some special talents; previous winners have included Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Joe Launchbury, with Billy Vunipola claiming the prize last year.
To celebrate the player's achievement, they will have the opportunity to become a Land Rover ambassador for the 2015-16 season.
The shortlist was compiled by a panel of media professionals –David Flatman (Land Rover ambassador), Tom Hamilton (ESPN Scrum.com), Nick Heath (ITV), Nick Purewal (Press Association) and Alex Lowe (The Times). Paul Morgan (Premiership Rugby's Communications Director chaired the panel).
2013-14: Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
2012-13: Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
2011-12: Owen Farrell (Saracens)
2010-11: Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
2009-10: Ben Youngs, (Leicester Tigers)
2008-9: Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)
2007-8: Danny Cipriani (London Wasps)
2006-7: Tom Rees (London Wasps)
2005-6: Tom Varndell (Leicester Tigers)
2004-5: Ollie Smith, (Leicester Tigers)
On 20 May the winners of the following Awards will be announced:
- Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season
- Aviva Community Player of the Season
- BT Sport Aviva Premiership Rugby Dream Team
- Citizen Try of the Season
- Gilbert Golden Boot
- Green Flag Forward of the Season
- Guinness Director of Rugby of the Season
- Land Rover Discovery of the Season
- Trivento Top Try Scorer of the Season
The other shortlists will be announced over the next seven days.
The winners will be announced on Thursday 20 May at the sold out Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards at the Hilton, Park Lane. The event will be covered live on Twitter via the @premrugby account