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Prolific Clifford up for Discovery award

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After cleaning up at Harlequins’ annual awards evening, back rower Jack Clifford is hoping to add another gong by being named Aviva Premiership Rugby’s Land Rover Discovery of the Season.

However, the 22-year-old admits getting his hands on that prize would require triumphing over a few old friends in the process.

Last summer Clifford had never started an Aviva Premiership Rugby game but this season has yielded 13 league starts and tries against high-fliers Saracens, Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints.

On Tuesday he was named Quins supporters’ player of the season, players’ player of the season and young player of the year, recognising a string of impressive displays in what has been a frustrating campaign for the club.

And now he must beat Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje and Exeter Chiefs duo Jack Nowell and Henry Slade to clinch yet another personal accolade.

“They are all my old mates,” said Clifford. “I played against Elliot Daly when I was back at school – Whitgift against RGS – and I played with Sladey and Nowellsy in the England U18s and U20s. It’s all a fairly close bunch of mates.

“I can’t say I have played with Maro but I have played against him and he has been playing out of his skin this season. It’s a real honour.

“The season maybe hasn’t gone as well as we hoped but for me, I have enjoyed it. I have done what I wanted to do every time I have played.

“I have had opportunities this season in the case of Chris Robshaw being injured and away with England and Luke Wallace being injured and I have been able to take them.”

The Land Rover Discovery of the Season award is designed to recognise the most impressive young players in the competition, with the winner due to be announced at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards at the London Hilton, Park Lane on May 20.

Previous winners include Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Joe Launchbury and Billy Vunipola and the victor will have the opportunity to become a Land Rover ambassador, for the 2015-16 season.

That season is already very much on Clifford's mind, as he looks to prove there is still much more to come.

And the former England U20s captain, who has been used all across the back row this season, has his eye on one Quins jersey going forward – Nick Easter’s No.8 shirt.

“There are massive boots to fill with the likes of Nick Easter and he has been a great guy to learn from,” he added.

“I would like to see myself end up at eight because I like to get my hands on the ball but for now I will play wherever gets me on the pitch.

“It’s not a bad thing, not being pigeonholed, but I don’t want to put myself down as a utility player in the future.

“Hopefully I can make sure the coaches think I’m not a one-season player and I can push on. It’s that old cliché – take each season as it comes – but that’s all I can do.”

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