Wasps’ Senior Academy flanker Jack Willis and Saracens' Tom Whiteley are the final two players announced on the shortlist for the Anglo-Welsh Cup Breakthrough Player Award by Premiership Rugby.
Both players made a big impact in the pool rounds of the competition, judged by the statisticians at OPTA. They join Wasps' Tom Howe, Northampton Saints’ back Harry Mallinder, Gloucester Rugby prop Cameron Orr, Harlequins back-rower James Chisholm, Exeter Chiefs’ Stu Townsend, Bath Rugby's Zach Mercer, Josh Adams from Worcester Warriors and Sam Simmonds from Exeter Chiefs, who were the first eight players placed on the shortlist after the first four rounds of action.
Willis is nominated as one of two Breakthrough wildcards. Willis has made 45 carries in this season’s competition, a tally that only three players can better, making three clean breaks, beating four defenders and scoring a try in the process. His defence has been close to flawless; of 40 attempted tackles he missed just one and also won six turnovers, the third most of any player.
Clean Breaks: 3
Defenders Beaten: 4
Tackle %: 98
The Breakthrough Player Award is open to the best Under-23 players in the Anglo-Welsh Cup with shortlisted players being named after each round. A public vote – which opens tomorrow - will decide the winner ahead of the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final, which is on Sunday 19 March at the Twickenham Stoop.
This year the competition is being supported by Citizen Watch UK who will provide the overall winner with the latest Citizen Skyhawk A-T watch and Gilbert who will supply £1,000 worth of kit to a grassroots club of the winner's choice.
Launched in 2012, the Breakthrough Player Award celebrates and recognises those young players who have stood out in the tournament with previous winners Jack Nowell, Jonny May, Tom Collins and Ollie Devoto.
Using OPTA match statistics, a forward and back from each round, along with two players with outstanding overall competition statistics (Willis and Whiteley) will form a shortlist, this has been submitted to a fan vote on www.new-heroes.com if you want to support the boys. The winner will be announced prior to the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final.
Zach Mercer – Bath Rugby
Josh Adams – Worcester Warriors
Sam Simmonds – Exeter Chiefs
Tom Howe – Wasps
James Chisholm – Harlequins
Stu Townsend – Exeter Chiefs
Harry Mallinder – Northampton Saints
Cameron Orr – Gloucester Rugby
Jack Willis – Wasps
Tom Whiteley - Saracens