Rugby starlet in line for award

By Tim Leigh in Rugby

South Hams rugby star Stuart Townsend has had a busy time of late and the fun isn’t set to stop any time soon.

Last Friday night saw Exeter Chiefs travel to Welford Road with the aim of taming Leicester Tigers, with Townsend making his first Premiership start for the club in the cauldron of Leicester’s stadium.

The Chiefs, who completed a league double over Tigers with an emphatic bonus-point victory, currently sit second in the Prem­iership and have an Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final against Harlequins to look forward to this Sunday at Sandy Park.

Townsend, who is from Kingsbridge and also attended Ivybridge Community College, played age-group rugby for Eng­land, and he overcame some early nerves to deliver a fine performance, including a smartly-taken try, in his time on the pitch.

Townsend was quoted on the Chiefs website as saying: “It was pretty unreal. Leicester away on a Friday night, it doesn’t get much tougher than that, so to come away with a bonus-point win is huge for the club and puts us in a great position moving forward.

“We’re really pushing to make the play-offs, so to get five points up here really pushes us up the table and puts us in a great position.

“For me to be playing and starting games in both Europe and the Premiership is like a dream come true for me, but hopefully it’s only the start of things and I get more chances in the future.

“Coming to places like Leicester, who are one of the biggest clubs around, and playing in front of over 20,000 people, it’s a very special feeling. Obviously I’ve had to work hard to get here – and I’ll continue to do that moving forward – but just to experience moments like this is what you play the game for.”

The good news didn’t stop there for Townsend, as on Wednesday it was revealed that he has made the 10-man shortlist for the 2016-17 Anglo-Welsh Cup Breakthrough Player Award and it’s now up to you to decide who will emerge as the winner.

The Breakthrough Player Award is open to the best U23 players in the Anglo-Welsh Cup with shortlisted players named after each round from statistics compiled by the boffins at Opta. All 10 have made a huge impact on the competition.

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.

Using Opta match statistics, a forward and back from each round, along with two players with outstanding overall competition statistics form the shortlist. The winner will be announced prior to the Anglo-Welsh Cup final on Sunday, March 19, at the Twickenham Stoop. 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.

To vote for Townsend, go to http://www.premiershiprugby.com/news/the-anglo-welsh-cup-is-back.

Exeter take on Harlequins at Sandy Park this Sunday for a place in the final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

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