Whoever ends up lifting the Aviva Premiership Rugby Trophy at Twickenham on May 26 will be worthy champions but even that squad would have a hard time competing against the BT Sport Dream Team named at last night’s Premiership Rugby Awards.
Master of ceremonies Martin Bayfield announced the 15 players from eight different clubs that were honoured at a glittering ceremony at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel.
Table-topping Exeter Chiefs have the most representatives with three, as hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, flanker Don Armand and No.8 Sam Simmonds – who also won Land Rover Discovery of the Season – all got the nod.
Five clubs contributed two players to the star-studded XV, including Wasps who were represented by full-back Willie Le Roux and fly-half Danny Cipriani.
Le Roux and Cipriani were both on hand at the Royal Lancaster to accept their award and the latter admits it was an honour.
“It’s brilliant to be named in the Dream Team but the great thing about rugby is it’s the most team-orientated sport in the world,” said Cipriani.
“You literally can’t do it without your team-mates but it’s nice to get the recognition.
“It’s not about bragging rights over other fly-halves but I do feel privileged to get the award because there were probably four or five other worthy winners in my position.
“I’ve really enjoyed this season – there’s a lot I’ve tried to work on and improve this year. That’s all I can keep focusing on, especially over the next couple days leading into Saturday’s semi-final.
“The boys are very excited – we know what a mammoth task it is going to Saracens because they are one of the strongest teams in Europe if not the strongest.”
Leicester Tigers also had two representatives – centre Matt Toomua and prop Ellis Genge – while another prop John Afoa and lock Ed Slater were the Gloucester Rugby players included.
A pair of Newcastle Falcons – Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season Vereniki Goneva and second-rower Calum Green – were selected, as were Northampton Saints duo Rob Horne in the centres and Jamie Gibson at blindside flanker.
And Gibson admits that while finishing ninth in the standing wasn’t what the team wanted, he was largely content with his own performances.
“It’s been a tough year for us as a team but I can’t complain because I’ve had my best season to date,” said Gibson.
“You’d rather play well and win in a team going forwards and I’d rather be playing rugby than on holiday right now but this is a positive side of a tough year.
“I’m always working hard and looking to improve. The more I’ve played I’ve learned when to get involved and when not to get involved.
“My focus this year has been on the physicality and making more of an impact every time I’m involved – whether that is in the ruck, tackling or at set-piece work and trying to be as dominant as possible.
“There’s a lot of new players coming in at Saints and a lot of change but there’s a lot to look forward to.
“We’ve got a few weeks off now but the pre-season will be here before we know it with a few fresh ideas and it’s exciting.”
Finally, Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors both contributed a sole player to the BT Sport Dream Team as Sharks scrum-half Faf de Klerk and the league’s joint-highest try scorer, Warriors winger Josh Adams, got the nod.
15. Willie Le Roux – Wasps
14. Vereniki Goneva – Newcastle Falcons
13. Rob Horne – Northampton Saints
12. Matt Toomua – Leicester Tigers
11. Josh Adams – Worcester Warriors
10. Danny Cipriani – Wasps
9. Faf De Klerk – Sale Sharks
1. Ellis Genge – Leicester Tigers
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie – Exeter Chiefs
3. John Afoa – Gloucester Rugby
4. Calum Green – Newcastle Falcons
5. Ed Slater – Gloucester Rugby
6. Jamie Gibson – Northampton Saints
7. Don Armand – Exeter Chiefs
8. Sam Simmonds – Exeter Chiefs