Catt purring at award nomination

London Irish and stand-in England captain Mike Catt leads the nominations for the Professional Rugby Players’ Association (PRA) Player of the Year award.

Catt, 35, has been voted onto the PRA’s five-man short-list for the second season running and is joined most notably by Bristol loose forwards Dan Ward-Smith and Roy Winters.

Bristol’s successful season – they harbour genuine hopes of qualifying for the Guinness Premiership semi-finals this weekend – has been built on a powerful forward pack.

And Ward-Smith’s nomination is particularly impressive given he has not played since injuring his knee in January, just a week before his proposed England debut.

Leicester’s powerful Samoan winger Alesana Tuilagi and Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson, the Premiership’s leading points scorer, complete the nominees for the PRA Computacenter players’ player award.

Catt returned to the England squad last summer for the tour of Australia after a stunning campaign for London Irish saw him named the Guinness Premiership’s player of 2005/06.

Catt then started his first Six Nations match since 2001 when he captained a young England side to a memorable victory over France at Twickenham.

That England team contained four of the five nominees for the PRA’s Young Player of the Year – the Nick Duncombe Memorial Award – all of whom were capped in the last 12 months.

Harlequins winger David Strettle, London Irish fly-half Shane Geraghty and Wasps flanker Tom Rees all made eye-catching England debuts during the Six Nations.

Highly-rated Gloucester centre Anthony Allen and Newcastle fly-half Toby Flood broke into the England team during the November internationals and are also nominated.

Flood remained in the squad for all five of England’s Six Nations matches and, with Jonny Wilkinson and Charlie Hodgson injured, started against France and Wales.

The PRA’s awards dinner will be held at the Grosvenor House hotel in London Wednesday on May 2.

Last year’s Player of the Year award went to Sale flanker and Scotland captain Jason White, whose season has been wrecked by a knee injury. The Young Player award was won by Tuilagi’s fellow Leicester wing Tom Varndell.

 

365 Digital

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