chris ashton englandRepresentatives from the Midlands dominate the nominations shortlist for both the Computacenter Players’ Player of the Year and the Norman Broadbent Young Player of the Year at the 2011 RPA Awards.

The winners will be announced in front of an audience of stars from the Aviva Premiership and the International game at the RPA Computacenter Rugby Players’ Awards Dinner, to be held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London on 25th May.

This weekend’s Aviva Premiership Rugby Semi Final between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints will have an added dimension in the back-row as Thomas Waldrom and Tom Wood battle for supremacy and the Computacenter Players’ Player of the Year award.

Joining them on the shortlist are Northampton Saints’ flier Chris Ashton and Harlequins’mercurial fly-half, Nick Evans, while The West Country also has a strong representation with Gloucester’s enigmatic centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and Exeter Chiefs’ evergreen prop Chris Budgen also making the final six. Please see below for quotes from the nominees.

For the Norman Broadbent Young Player of the Year award, the Midlands again claim three of the six nominations with 23 year old Tom Wood young enough to qualify for Young Player as well as Players’ Player. Wood has an in-house tussle for the title with Saints team-mate Courtney Lawes, who makes the cut for the second year running.

Manu Tuilagi caps a remarkable first season for Leicester Tigers with a place on the shortlist, having already won the Young Player award at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards dinner this week.

Saracens’ string-pulling fly-half Owen Farrell, Gloucester’s prolific wing Charlie Sharples and Harlequins’ fully Mohican-ed prop, Joe Marler, complete the shortlist.  Sharples and Farrell have the chance to show why they’ve been nominated as they go head to head in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Semi Final this weekend.

The nominations in full are:

Computacenter Players’ Player of the Year 2011

Chris Ashton – Northampton Saints

Tom Wood – Northampton Saints

Thomas Waldrom – Leicester Tigers

Nick Evans – Harlequins

Chris Budgen – Exeter Chiefs

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu – Gloucester

Norman Broadbent Young Player of the Year 2011

Courtney Lawes – Northampton Saints

Manu Tuilagi –  Leicester Tigers

Tom Wood – Northampton Saints

Charlie Sharples – Gloucester

Owen Farrell – Saracens

Joe Marler – Harlequins