Premiership Rugby today confirmed that six of the brightest young rugby talents, including Gloucester's Elliott Stooke, have been shortlisted for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award.
Stooke's nomination underlines what a remarkable few months it has been for the second row, who came into preseason recovering from an elbow injury suffered helping England win the Junior World Championship in France.
The 21 year old hadn't featured in an Aviva Premiership game prior to the 2013-14 campaign, his first team appearances comprising of two LV= Cup starts and a replacement appearance in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
But, since appearing as a replacement in the season opener at home to Sale, he hasn't looked back. He has appeared in every Premiership fixture, started five of the club's Heineken Cup games and earned a call up for the
The full Land Rover Discovery of The Season shortlist is:
Jamie Elliott - Northampton Saints
George Ford - Bath Rugby
Elliott Stooke - Gloucester Rugby
Billy Vunipola - Saracens
Anthony Watson - Bath Rugby
Owen Williams - Leicester Tigers
The winner will be announced at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards at the London Hilton, Park Lane on 15th May.
"The 2013-14 campaign has been a remarkable season for the emergence of quality, young English players into Aviva Premiership Rugby," said Mike Hynard Premiership Rugby's Head of Academies and Development.
"More academy graduates are breaking through into Aviva Premiership Rugby sides every season. The result of this is an England squad that gets younger and younger, with the likes of Jack Nowell and George Ford now getting opportunities on the international stage.
"This is a direct result of the expertise, hard work and increasing investment into the Premiership Rugby clubs' academy programmes.
"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.
"I have no doubt that Aviva Premiership Rugby will see more young English players of even higher quality breaking through over the coming years."
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 and Manu Tuilagi with Joe Launchbury claiming the prize last year.
To celebrate the player's achievement, they will have the opportunity to become a Land Rover ambassador, for the 2014/15 season.
The shortlist was compiled by a panel of media professionals - Sonja McLaughlan (BBC 5 Live), Hugh Godwin (Independent), Tom Hamilton (EPSN Scrum.com) along with Mike Hynard (Premiership Rugby's Head of Academies and Development). Paul Morgan (Premiership Rugby's Communications Director chaired the panel.
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 15 May the winners of the following Awards will be announced:
· Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season
· Aviva Community Player of the Season
· Land Rover Discovery of the Season
· Guinness Director of Rugby of the Season
· ITV Sport Try of the Season
· Gilbert Golden Boot
· Top Try Scorer of the Season
· BT Sport Aviva Premiership Rugby Dream Team
· Gatorade Game Changer of the Season
· Green Flag Forward of the Season
The other shortlists will be announced over the next three days.
The winners will be announced on Thursday 15 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.
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