The current top four in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table are well represented as the nominees for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards are announced.
Thomas Waldrom of leaders Leicester Tigers is nominated as Aviva Player of the Season, as is hooker Schalk Brits of second placed Saracens. Northampton Saints provide the other three nominees in the shape of England duo Chris Ashton and Tom Wood, as well as South African prop Brian Mujati.
The judges were also keen to highlight the merits of Gloucester Rugby’s centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and Exeter Chiefs’ back row forward Tom Johnson, playing his first season of Premiership Rugby, both of whom just missed out on nominations.
The top four also provide four of the five nominees for QBE Director of Rugby of the Season in Richard Cockerill, Mark McCall, Bryan Redpath and Jim Mallinder. Completing the quintet is Exeter Chiefs’ Head Coach Rob Baxter.
The strength of the English academy structure is in evidence once again in the Land Rover Discovery of the Season category. English Qualified Player levels average 67.5% across the league this season and Harlequins lead the pack with an average of 76.8% EQP across all competitions. Quins centre George Lowe is nominated and there is a second successive nomination for Sale Sharks back row forward James Gaskell.
The top three clubs then provide the makings of an interesting England back line of the future, with nominations for fly half Owen Farrell of Saracens, centre Manu Tuilagi of Leicester Tigers and Gloucester Rugby wing Charlie Sharples. Award nominees Chris Ashton, Schalk Brits and Manu Tuilagi are also nominated for the MBNA Try of the Season award. They are joined by Gloucester Rugby duo Andrew Hazell and Lesley Vainikolo, both for efforts scored against Leicester Tigers; Hazell for his try at Welford Road and Vainikolo for his in the first match between the two at Kingsholm in October.
Finally, three back row forwards will compete for the Gatorade Performance of the Season award, with nominations for Leeds Carnegie’s England international Hendre Fourie, Exeter Chiefs’ Tom Johnson and Bath Rugby’s Springbok star Luke Watson.
The nominations in full are:
Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season
Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints)
Schalk Brits (Saracens)
Brian Mujati (Northampton Saints)
Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Land Rover Discovery of the Season
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
James Gaskell (Sale Sharks)
George Lowe (Harlequins)
Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby)
Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
QBE Director of Rugby of the Season
Rob Baxter (Exeter Chiefs)
Bryan Redpath (Gloucester Rugby)
Richard Cockerill (Leicester Tigers)
Jim Mallinder (Northampton Saints)
Mark McCall (Saracens)
MBNA Try of the Season
Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints) – Aviva Premiership Rugby round 21, London Irish v NORTHAMPTON SAINTS, Saturday 23rd April 2011, (his first try)
Schalk Brits (Saracens) – Aviva Premiership Rugby round 21, SARACENS v Gloucester Rugby, Sunday 24th April 2011
Andrew Hazell (Gloucester Rugby) – Aviva Premiership Rugby round 20, Leicester Tigers v GLOUCESTER RUGBY, Saturday 16th April 2011
Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) – Aviva Premiership Rugby round 17, Leicester Tigers v SARACENS, Saturday 5th March 2011 Lesley Vainikolo (Gloucester Rugby) – Aviva Premiership Rugby round 7, GLOUCESTER RUGBY v Leicester Tigers, Saturday 30th October 2010
Gatorade Performance of the Season
Hendre Fourie (Leeds Carnegie) – Aviva Premiership Rugby round 12, LEEDS CARNEGIE v Gloucester Rugby, Saturday 1st January 2011
Luke Watson (Bath Rugby) – Aviva Premiership Rugby round 6, Leicester Tigers v BATH RUGBY, Saturday 23rd October 2010
Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs) – Aviva Premiership Rugby round 9, EXETER CHIEFS v Sale Sharks, Sat 27th November 2010
Also presented on the evening will be:
Aviva Community Player of the Season
Gilbert Golden Boot
Guinness Top Try Scorer
ESPN Dream Team
J.P. Morgan Asset Management 7s Series Player of the Season
The Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards take place on the evening of Tuesday 10th May at Old Billingsgate in London.
The Awards panel comprised:
Paul Morgan (Mail on Sunday, Rugby World, Chairman Rugby Union Writers’ Club), Mick Cleary (Daily Telegraph), Alastair Eykyn (BBC), Miles Harrison (Sky Sports), Neale Harvey (Rugby Times), Nick Mullins (ESPN), Phil Winstanley (Rugby Director, Premiership Rugby)