The six finalists of the LV= Breakthrough Player Award have today been unveiled.
Following a week of tough deliberating between panel members Martin Bayfield (ITV), Gywn Jones (S4C), Ieuan Evans (Sky) and Gavin Mairs (Telegraph), the final six – who were whittled down from a list of 20 hopefuls – includes four English and two Welsh representatives.
2011 IRB Junior Player of the Year George Ford - who kicked six successful conversions to help England Under 20 record an impressive 59-3 win over Scotland on Friday - makes the shortlist, and is joined by U20 team mate, Worcester Warriors’ Matt Kvesic.
Joining Ford and Kvesic from the Aviva Premiership are Gloucester’s Jonny May and London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph.
Twenty-one year old May is selected from a crop of exciting talent at Kingsholm, standing out for his stunning performance against Toulouse in this season’s Heineken Cup. Part of the successful Hartpury Rugby set up in 2008-9, he was a regular feature in the A League side in 2009-10 and made an initial first team squad breakthrough in preseason scoring a memorable try against Connacht.
Joseph, who missed out on an England Saxons call up in February due to injury, completes the English showing in the LV= Breakthrough Player finalists. Named as London Irish Young Player of the Season in 2010-11, the Derby-born centre ran in two tries against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park in September 2010 and repeated the feat against Sale Sharks the following month at Madejski Stadium
The only player on the inaugural shortlist to have been selected in his country’s RBS 6 Nations training squad, Wales born Liam Williams has operated at both full-back and wing for the Scarlets. A product of the Waunarlwydd club he was once likened to JPR Williams by his regional coach, Nigel Davies.
Finally, Matthew Morgan joins the six hopefuls having played all bar 29 minutes of the Ospreys LV= Cup campaign this season scoring 41 points in four games included his team’s opening try at Worcester on Saturday.
The winner of the LV=Cup Breakthrough Player Award is now in the hands of supporters, who can make their choice by visiting www.lv.co.uk/rugby. The player with the highest number of nominations will receive a Tag Heuer watch plus £1,000 donated to a local grassroots club of their choice and of course, the inaugural LV= Cup Breakthrough Player trophy.
The winner of the award, which is designed to recognise a young player who has stood out in the 2011-12 competition, will be announced on Tuesday March 13. Voting will close at midnight on Sunday March 11.
LV= Breakthrough Player shortlist
George Ford (Leicester Tigers)? Jonathan Joseph (London Irish)? Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby) ?Liam Williams (Scarlets) ?Matthew Morgan (Ospreys)?Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)
The LV= Cup Final is coming to Sixways, Worcester on Sunday, 18 March. Secure two tickets for just £20 with a 2-for-1 offer on the first 1,000 tickets sold for the battle for this season’s first piece of silverware. These tickets will sell fast so book now at 01905 454183 or www.warriors.co.uk.