The six man short-list for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season has been revealed.
Selected from a seven person panel, the list features some of the most exciting players of the last season, and some rapidly rising stars.
Speaking about the Award, Land Rover Ambassador David Flatman said:
“What I love about the Land Rover Discovery of the Season Award is the whole notion of young players landing in the world of the elite and absolutely tearing that world up, these youngsters are coming up against established and experienced players and making them sit up and take note; emerging as genuine talents.”
“This shortlist took a long time to sign off not because there’s a paucity of great young players but because there’s a surplus.”
To qualify, players had to be under 23 years of age on 16th October 2015 and must have featured in at least five Aviva Premiership matches this season.
The Land Rover Discovery of the Season shortlist is:
Jack Clifford – Harlequins
Paul Hill – Northampton Saints
Maro Itoje – Saracens
Sam James – Sale Sharks
Harry Mallinder – Northampton Saints
Harry Thacker – Leicester Tigers
Clifford was captain of the 2013 England U20 side that won the Junior World Championships, and has this season become a Quins regular and appeared off the bench for England on multiple occasion.
Hill moved from Yorkshire Carneige to Northampton Saints this year, and was a part of the 2014 England U20 side that own the Junior World Championship and also the side that reached last year’s final, this year he has gone on to play for England off the bench during the RBS 6 Nations.
Itoje is one of the best known rising stars in English rugby. He captained that 2014 England U20 side, and last year captained Saracens Storm to the A League title and Saracens to the LV=Cup title, this year though he has been instrumental to the Saracens 1st XV in all competitions and is now an England regular and a key players.
James was not a part of the ultra successful England U20 sides of recent years, having had to get past the likes of Henry Slade, Ollie Devoto, and Billy Burns for a fly half spot, however a move to centre outside Danny Cipriani at Sale Sharks has seen him prove to be one of the brightest stars in Sale’s armory this season.
Mallinder was still at Rugby School last year and competing for England U18 at the FIRA/AER European Championships. His rise has been rapid though. Coming into the Saints side due to injuries, he has become a permanent and classy fixture, so much so that he had to miss England U20’s 6 Nations campaign due to his commitments with Northampton.
Thacker played at flanker during a lot of the early season, but injury to Tom Youngs saw him really cement some game time at his preferred position of hooker for Leicester Tigers. The former England U20 star, another Junior World Championship winner, used all of those skills that make him such a versatile option as he scored one of the tries of the season in the East Midlands derby against Northampton Saints recently.