Analysing the 2014-15 Premiership Player of the Year Nominees

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMay 15, 2015

Analysing the 2014-15 Premiership Player of the Year Nominees

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    Miles Willis/Getty Images

    As the end of the 2014-15 Aviva Premiership campaign creeps within sight, England's top flight takes time to reflect on the individual merits of a select few following the announcement of the Player of the Season shortlist.

    England internationals George Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Billy Vunipola are joined by Wasps pair Nathan Hughes and Elliot Daly in the race to be crowned this season's most impressive figure.

    May 16 brings about the closing matches of the normal campaign, and opinion will be divided on who of the quintet is most deserving, but only one can take home the top prize.

    With the announcement set to be made on Wednesday, May 20, read on for a breakdown of each player's accomplishments this season and why they might stake a claim on the 2014-15 Premiership Player of the Year award.

1. Elliot Daly, Wasps

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    Wasps may have missed out on a playoff place this season, but Daly is one aspect of their squad that's taken his and, by extension, the team's prospects onto bigger and better things.

    The 22-year-old has shone particularly brightly during the latter half of the 2014-15 campaign and has five tries to his name thus far, four of which were scored across four consecutive games in March to earn the Player of the Month award.

    So fast has the versatile back's rise been that Daly is now pressing for a place in Stuart Lancaster's 45-man England training squad for this summer, with OptaJonny showing what a potent creative force he's been for Wasps, providing 11 assists for tries in the Premiership Rugby season—more than any other player.

    Having already represented England Saxons, Daly's development is coming along nicely, and this term has also seen him prove a useful kicking tool, more than capable of slotting from long range.

    With weapons like Daly among his ranks, it's little wonder Dai Young's team are the Premiership's top scorers as things stand.

2. George Ford, Bath

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    The hype surrounding George Ford is well-established by this stage, having superseded Owen Farrell as England's No. 10 of choice and proving to be one of the linchpins in this surging Bath outfit.

    For all the superstar signings to have arrived at The Rec of late, their fly-half hero remains arguably the most pleasant surprise in terms of just how astonishingly Ford has grasped the responsibilities of a team now contending for major honours.

    With 175 points to his name in 13 Premiership outings, the 22-year-old is every bit the reliable place kicker father Mike Ford has required, but it's Ford's other qualities that make him such a threat.

    Not limited to any one side of a fly-half's duties, the youngster quite simply has it all in his locker as a stand-off, and Bath recognised that this past week by naming Ford their Player of the Year.

    For one so young, Lancaster's international catalyst consistently shows remarkable maturity to stay so grounded despite the excitement surrounding his name.

    There's a serious question to be asked regarding whether Bath would have made their push to second, as things stand, were Ford not at the helm of their charge, which in itself speaks volumes of just what a serious talent he is.

3. Billy Vunipola, Saracens

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    Having scored four tries in 13 Premiership outings this season, Billy Vunipola has enjoyed his most prolific campaign to date and once again been at the tip of Saracens' spear across all fronts.

    The English powerhouse may have failed to make the same dent in Europe as they did en route to last year's final, but Vunipola was nonetheless there every step of the way, surely making ground with each.

    In fact, OptaJonny showed us last month that Mark McCall's side had indeed failed to produce a better carrier of the ball than their No. 8 this season, with no player beating more defenders than Vunipola.

    As Vunipola grows, it's only natural that fans will expect more than a mere bruiser; all too often do starlets with hulking physical attributes cause an initial stir, but technical nuances about their play may be lacking.

    Brisbane-born Vunipola is now beginning to show those extra strings to his bow against elite competition, and Saracens will very much look to him this Saturday as they attempt to cement their top-four finish against London Welsh.

4. Nathan Hughes, Wasps

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    Dan Mullan/Getty Images

    From a Wasps No. 8 of years gone by to the figure currently making all the right headlines in Young's camp, Nathan Hughes can look proudly upon the growth shown during his second year as a Premiership player.

    The Fiji-born behemoth will qualify for England through residency next year, and rumblings within the rugby community assert he'll be ready to answer that call when it comes.

    Based on the seven tries scored in 20 league games this season, one would be inclined to agree, and the official Aviva Premiership Twitter account pointed out in April just what an attacking dynamo Hughes really is after he beat 10 defenders in a match—the highest total for any Wasps player all season.

    Tries against Saracens and Bath were particular highlights for the 23-year-old in September and January, respectively, illustrating Hughes genuinely can duel with the best England has to offer.

    Put simply, Hughes' presence on the pitch this term has been enough in itself to assure one that sparks will fly—the mark of an entertainer earning Player of the Year recognition in just his second European season.

5. Jonathan Joseph, Bath

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    It's remarkable to think that at just 24 years of age Jonathan Joseph is the oldest of this year's Premiership Player of the Year nominees, but the centre has barely touched the cusp of what he's capable of.

    Many may feel Joseph's recognition is arriving late, but the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign truly did mark the player entering a new phase of his career, taking him to the heights of Test rugby in the process.

    A sensational Six Nations—in which he scored four tries—was a near-perfect way to mark the start of Joseph's England career, and while it has little impact on his Premiership campaign, his country recognised his feats with a double award this week. The Rugby Player's Association named him as Players' Player of the Year and England Player of the Year.

    The midfield magician has featured in only four Premiership games in 2015, but a spree of six tries in his first seven games of the campaign laid a firm foundation for his candidacy.

    Soaring over the whitewash is of course far from Joseph's only talent, however, and if one were to ask which of the five nominees has genuinely added the most to his side's journey this term, both in attack and defence, Joseph may stand out.

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