It's the awards season for Premiership rugby but not everyone can win them. Here are five people who deserve a nod for their outstanding efforts in England's top flight
The Harare-born back-rower – six, seven or eight makes no difference – has played in 24 of Exeter’s 29 games this season and although Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Thomas Waldrom have hogged the headlines, he’s one of the players whose name should be in lights too.
Signed from the Stormers in 2013, Armand also did a few turns in the second row last season for the Chiefs and the 27-year-old has had a staggering season this time around in a back row that also has to fit in the likes of Dave Ewers and Julian Salvi.
He featured in the top rankings for tackling and carrying in the Premiership season and was named Player of the Year by the Exeter Chiefs Supporters’ Club. While we’re at Sandy Park, an honourable mention must go to Robin Cowling, the former England prop, for the work he has done bringing a pile of Chiefs through to the highest level.
Sale’s director of rugby will probably not be getting any gongs when the end-of-season awards are handed out. But with all the attention on Saracens, Exeter and Wasps, his side flew under the radar and back into the Champions Cup. And look at some of the clubs who didn’t make it to the European big time.
Diamond doesn’t have a bottomless pit of cash, Sale apparently spend under the salary cap, and it’s a fight to get players to the club. But for next season he has secured the services of Mike Phillips, Rob Webber, Kieran Longbottom and league superstar Josh Charnley.
The battle he faces every year is shown by the fact that Danny Cipriani and Tommy Taylor are off to Wasps, but Sale will be punching above their weight again – just like Diamond did when he was a combative hooker for the club. He also brought Mike Haley, his full-back, to Eddie Jones’s attention and the likes of Will Addison and Sam James are not a million miles away.
Playing in a team that finishes stone-last isn’t the best way to get on the right side of the national coach but Eddie Jones knows his onions and picked Lewington for his training camp in Brighton ahead of the Wales Test match.
Lewington, who joined London Irish from Leicester in 2013, scored six tries in his last nine starts of the season in all competitions – in a side that had a gun pressed against its head.
The 24-year-old played in England’s non-cap game against the Barbarians last year, coming off the bench, and it wouldn’t be any surprise to see him off to South Africa with the Saxons this summer. Would probably do himself a favour if he wasn’t playing in the Championship next season, though.
The lock played 26 games for Northampton as they failed to make the play-offs but secured a place in next year’s Champions Cup. Good in the scrum and the lineout, he’s never far off the action but rarely gets the plaudits handed out to Saints’ brigade of internationals.
However, a lot of Day’s most important work comes off the pitch in his role as chairman of the Rugby Players’ Association, where he has to bat for the blokes who actually do the business on the pitch. Player welfare is top of his agenda but drugs, preparing players for life after rugby and the concussion debate are all in his in-tray and being looked at.
He has to play most weeks as well and he does a pretty good job of it. It has been said if you want something done then get a busy man to do it. Day is a busy man alright and is trying to get things done for the sake of his fellow players on top of the day job.
Not even close to a cigar for Bath this year after a miserable season was capped off with the retirement of their club captain Hooper. The second-row only started 11 games before he had to quit in April with a back injury and received a few plaudits then. But in a career of 232 Premiership appearances for Saracens, Leeds and Bath he didn’t get the praise he deserved, although he did captain the Saxons in 2009.
Recognised by those on the inside as an outstanding leader, Hooper’s presence might just have been what was missing as Bath failed to qualify for the Champions Cup. Mike Ford could do with finding another player like the 34-year-old if his team are to make an assault on the top four again next year, when Hooper will be on the coaching staff.