Northampton Saints full-back Tom Collins says he is already relishing the chance to follow in the footsteps of illustrious company after being named the LV= 2014/15 Breakthrough Player of the Year.
The 20-year-old, nominated in November after the first round of the LV= Cup for a standout showing against Newcastle Falcons, topped a public vote to be crowned the fourth winner of the award.
A quick look at the previous three winners – Ollie Devoto, Jack Nowell and Jonny May – will tell you why Collins’ peers and coaches are tipping him for big things.
After winning the trophy last season Bath’s versatile back Devoto has since represented England Saxons, while Exeter Chiefs’ Nowell and Gloucester’s May have both appeared on the wing for Stuart Lancaster’s senior side this Six Nations campaign.
And with a bright future ahead, Collins believes this latest accolade is a perfect motivation for him to not only break into the Saints first team but also challenge for a Red Rose jersey.
“It’s a real honour to have been named as the LV= Breakthrough Player and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for me,” said Collins speaking at Franklin’s Gardens, the venue for Sunday’s LV= Cup final.
“You just have to look at the previous winners of the trophy and it shows you how great the LV= Cup is for bringing through young players and gives you something to aspire towards.
“I’m really enjoying my rugby at the moment, and have undoubtedly benefitted from the LV= Cup experience. It’s a great platform to show what you can do as a player.
“For the team it has been an up and down year in the LV= Cup. We’ve had a couple of losses to Leicester and Saracens in the semi-final.
“But for a young player, competitions like this build you as a player and get you to learn from the experiences and come back a better player.
“It’s obviously disappointing that we didn’t make the final, especially as it’s at Franklin’s Gardens but I’m sure it will be still be a great occasion.”
The stats would support claims that Collins is a worth winner – the Saints Academy graduate having scored two tries and assisted another, as well as making 18 carries and beating seven would-be tacklers in the 37-23 win over the Falcons.
As well as the award for his mantelpiece, LV= will also donate £1,000 to a grassroots club of his choice to reflect the important role the community game has on developing the career of future stars.
And World Cup winner Lewis Moody, who was at Franklin’s Gardens to hand over the trophy, believes Collins is certainly on the right track to having an international future.
“When you look at how Tom has played, the involvements he has had in the games, how he is thought of by his peers and his coaches, he’s still a young man playing some wonderful rugby and a lot of people think very highly of him,” said LV= Cup ambassador Moody.
“He’s got some big boots to fill with the previous winners being Ollie Devoto, Jack Nowell and Jonny May and two of those of course have had full international caps and the other has been a Saxon.
“But I think he has a big future ahead of him and I can’t wait to see how he gets on.”
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final this Sunday, March 22. Tickets available here.