Wales head coach Warren Gatland today backed a new award for this season's LV= Cup, designed to recognise a young player who has stood out in the 2011-12 competition.
Subsequent to the re-launch of the LV= Cup in September, supporters are now being given the chance to have their say on who they believe has made an outstanding contribution to the competition over the past seven months with the introduction of the LV= Breakthrough Player Award.
A 20 strong group of emerging stars will be whittled down to six by a panel of rugby experts: Martin Bayfield (ITV), Ieuan Evans (Sky), Gywn Jones (S4C) and Gavin Mairs (Telegraph).
Once the initial shortlist of six has then been selected, the fans take control via www.lv.com/rugby, where they can vote for their chosen player.
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.
As Wales head coach Warren Gatland comments, there are many worthy winners of the inaugural trophy with the LV= Cup competition providing an excellent breeding ground for academy players to experience first team action.
“The Anglo-Welsh cup is an exciting competition which continues to allow for the development of many young talented players in Wales and I’m sure that many of them will be in contention for this new award from LV= in the seasons ahead,“ he said.
The 20 shortlist*, selected by Paul Morgan, now Head of Communications at Premiership Rugby, includes at least one player from all sixteen LV= Cup clubs.
“This list shows the depth of talent in both England and Wales and some of the players who have made a breakthrough in the 2011-12 season,” commented Morgan.
“In compiling this initial list we were spoilt for choice and could have included another 50 players with ease. There is some great talent out there amongst the clubs in the LV= Cup, many of whom came through the clubs’ academies.
“We tried to come up with a list of players, Under-23, who have already had an impact on what has been a fascinating LV= Cup campaign so far. I don’t envy the panel members who now need to bring this long list down to six, and I will be fascinated to see who will win the fans’ vote which follows.”
LV=’s Head of Sponsorship Claire Jeromson also commented: “The 2011-12 LV= Cup has delivered some outstanding matches and we are thrilled to be launching an award that will identify some of the stand out players that have played a huge role in the success of this year’s competition.”
The LV= Cup is credited for playing a crucial role in the development of elite players and the introduction of the LV= Breakthrough Player Award aims to recognise and celebrate this talent.
Voting begins on Monday 6 February via LV.com/rugby, and closes at midnight on Sunday 11 March. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 13 March.
*LV= Cup Breakthrough Player 20 shortlist:
Bath Rugby – Olly Woodburn & Tom Heathcote
Saracens – Jamie George
London Wasps – Elliot Daly
Ospreys - Matthew Morgan
London Irish – Jonathan Joseph & Steve Shingler
Leicester Tigers – George Ford & Sam Harrison
Cardiff Blues - Dan Fish
Sale Sharks – Rob Miller
Scarlets - Adam Warren & Liam Williams
Harlequins – Luke Wallace
Newcastle Falcons – Joel Hodgson
Gloucester Rugby – Jonny May
Northampton Saints – Jamie Elliott
Exeter Chiefs - Dave Ewers
Newport Gwent-Dragons - Steffan Jones
Worcester Warriors – Matt Kvesic
The LV= Cup Final is coming to Sixways, Worcester on Sunday, 18 March. Secure your ticket for just £10 with a 2-for-1 offer on the first 1,000 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.
CAPTION: Four Welsh players shortlisted for LV=Breakthrough Player Award