Aviva Premiership: Maro Itoje and Jack Nowell on shortlist

Five English players in contention to succeed Saracens star Billy Vunipola as Land Rover Discovery of the Season

Five talented English youngsters have been shortlisted for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award.

The award, which recognises the best player aged 23 or under in the Aviva Premiership, is headed by Exeter Chiefs and England wing Jack Nowell, the only player on the list to have earned senior international honours with eight caps to his name, and Saracens and England U20 lock Maro Itoje, who captained England at the Junior World Championship in New Zealand last summer.

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.

Mike Hynard

Nowell’s versatile team-mate Henry Slade, who started at 10 for England Saxons in January, also makes the list after an impressive season for the Chiefs, which saw him pick up the player of the month award for February.

Harlequins back-row forward Jack Clifford and Wasps’ versatile back Elliot Daly, who picked up the player of the month award for March, are also in contention to succeed Saracens and England star Billy Vunipola, who picked up the award almost 12 months ago.

Mike Hynard, Premiership Rugby’s head of academies and development, admitted that all five have bright futures ahead of them for club and country.

“This is a hugely impressive group of young players,” Hynard said.

“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 winner will be announced at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards at the London Hilton, Park Lane on Wednesday 20 May.

Land Rover Discovery of the Season shortlist:

Jack Clifford, 22 (Harlequins)
Elliot Daly, 22 (Wasps)
Maro Itoje, 20 (Saracens)
Jack Nowell, 22 (Exeter Chiefs)
Henry Slade, 22 (Exeter Chiefs)

Previous winners:

2014: Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
2013: Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
2012: Owen Farrell (Saracens)
2011: Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
2010: Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
2009: Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)
2008: Danny Cipriani (Wasps)
2007: Tom Rees (Wasps)
2006: Tom Varndell (Leicester Tigers)
2005: Ollie Smith, (Leicester Tigers)

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