- Wildcard options Ollie Devoto and Matt Hankin profiled
- Moody impressed by widlcard nominees
Photo: Getty Images
Bath Rugby are nurturing a host of exciting talents and England legend Lewis Moody believes LV= Breakthrough Player Award nominee Ollie Devoto is one of the brightest sparks.
Devoto is one of the award’s wildcard nominations, handed out for excellent displays across all four games of the LV= Cup pool stage.
The 20-year-old utility back has stood out in the LV= Cup as well as making a number of appearances in the Aviva Premiership, as Bath continue to compete on all fronts this season.
His performances have impressed former Bath man Moody for some time now, alongside The Rec’s other tyros – such as England pair Kyle Eastmond and George Ford.
And Moody has rarely been more impressed by a youngster than Devoto’s display in Bath’s 35-17 win at Leicester Tigers to secure a home semi-final.
“Every time he takes to the field, he’s been one of the best players on the pitch, be it on the winning side or not,” said the former England flanker.
“You talk about metres carried and it’s more than any other of the nominees in this category in a one-off game.
“I got to watch Ollie last year as well and he’s always been brilliant. He’s played a number of games now for the first team, either on the bench or starting.
“I think people underestimate his size. He’s a big lad, a strong lad, he doesn’t look particularly quick but he is. He is quite happy playing fly-half or centre and he’s caused a lot of problems in the games I’ve seen him play.
“Against Leicester he was absolutely outstanding with the likes of Kyle Eastmond and Matt Banahan around him. For a lad of 20 it’s quite an achievement.”
Knowing better than most what it takes to emerge as an exciting young flanker, Moody believes fellow wildcard nominee Matt Hankin has the perfect surroundings at Saracens.
Photo: Getty Images
Hankin has been the standout defensive player in the LV= Cup this season, making the joint most tackles of any player – at a 92 per cent success rate – and grabbing a try against Scarlets.
The 20-year-old, who was part of the England Under-20 team who beat Wales in the Junior World Cup final last year, has been part of an impressive Sarries side throughout the pool phase.
His performances have caught the eye of Moody, who racked up 71 caps on the flank for England and more than 200 appearances for Aviva Premiership side Leicester Tigers.
And the 35-year-old thinks his combination of talent, attitude and the right mentors at Allianz Park could see Hankin develop into one of the country’s most dangerous flankers.
“He’s only 20 so he’s at the younger end of the stretch and if you’re going to learn from the Jacques Burgers of the world down at Saracens he’s a good, hard man to learn from,” said Moody.
“If you look at him in terms of work rate he puts in, the number of turnovers made. That’s the sort of player you want. You want a confident player. You want him contesting the ball consistently and getting a number of turnovers which is fantastic.
“If you’re one of those guys who is going to put his hand up and say ‘look, use me’ and be the man a fly-half knows he can go to on those occasions and Matt’s certainly been doing that.”
Devoto and Hankin are the final nominees in the 2014 LV= Breakthrough Player Award, with the winner to be announced prior to the LV= Cup Final at Sandy Park on March 16 and LV= will donate £1,000 to a grassroots rugby initiative of the winner's choice.
The LV=Cup, watch the next generation break through. For more information on the LV= Breakthrough Player Award and voting, visit www.LV.com/rugby