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Simpson shortlisted for IRB world player award

London Wasps Academy and England Under 20's, Joe Simpson, has been shortlisted for one of world rugby's most prestigious awards.

The 20 year old scrum half, is one of three players nominated for the International Rugby Board (IRB) Young Player of the Year Award alongside New Zealand's Chris Smith and Luke Braid.

No higher honour is available to a young player with Gavin Henson (Wales), Luke McAlister (New Zealand), Isaia Toeava (New Zealand), Lionel Beauxis (France) and Simpson's Wasps team mate Pat Barnard (South Africa) among the recent winners.

Simpson's nomination, made by a panel of team managers at the IRB Junior World Championship, came at the end of an outstanding season with the national Under 20 side, who completed an RBS Under 20 Six Nations Grand Slam before beating Australia and South Africa to become the first England team to reach the final of an IRB age-group tournament.

A product of St Benedict's School, Joe joined the London Wasps Academy in 2006 and has developed as a core member of the Guinness A league winning side. On the international stage he appeared in eight of England's Under 20 internationals this season, scoring tries against Scotland and South Africa. He had previously represented England at Under-18 and Under-19 levels and played for the England in the IRB World Sevens Series.

"I'm very proud and excited to have been nominated and being selected as one of the three leading players from the Junior World Championship is a great feeling," said Simpson.

"Although it's me who's been nominated it's also a reflection of the team I've been playing in and particularly the England forwards. You can't play well behind a pack that's struggling and they've been awesome ' it's a tribute to all of them in the front row, second row and back row.

"I'll be concentrating on Wasps this season, we've got a pre-season trip to Dax this week and I'm hoping to get a chance of getting on the bench and making my first appearance. I've just got to keep on learning now, work hard and progress through the ranks and there is no better place to that than at Wasps.

"This season I'm dual-registered with London Welsh, so I'll be playing for them, playing in the A League for Wasps and hoping to force myself into the first team squad when Eoin Reddan is away with Ireland. He's a terrific player and I hope I can learn as much as possible from him."

On the news London Wasps Academy Manager, Rob Smith, said, 'I am absolutely thrilled for Joe and his nomination is a deserved reward for all of the hard work he has put in this season. He had a fantastic World Cup, particularly his semi final performance which was outstanding, and I think we certainly have a future star on our hands. Continuing with his academy status this season, I have no doubt he will have the opportunity to pick up some senior action with the club as he looks set to develop into yet another bright Premiership talent."

Wasps Head Coach Shaun Edwards added, "We are delighted for Joe, he is a player with great potential who I am sure will progress to the highest levels in the future. His nomination continues to demonstrate Wasps ability to develop their own young talent and I'm sure Joe will be another great example."

The winner will be announced when the 2008 IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline take place at Old Billingsgate in London on November 26.