World Cup winning England legend Lewis Moody believes Denny Solomona’s flying start to his Sale Sharks career completely justifies his nomination for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season Award.
The 23-year-old winger joins Bath Rugby duo Zach Mercer and Tom Ellis, Harlequins centre Joe Marchant, Exeter Chiefs scrum-half Jack Maunder, and Leicester Tiger Ellis Genge on the shortlist.
The winner is set to be announced on Wednesday at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards, and will rub shoulders with the biggest names in English rugby at a glittering ceremony at the London Lancaster Hotel.
Solomona only converted to union from rugby league as recently as December, hitting the ground running for the Sharks to score ten tries in his first 11 appearances in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
That immediately propelled him into selection picture for England, with Solomona subsequently called up by Eddie Jones for this summer’s tour to Argentina.
And Moody, who ended his trophy-laden career with 71 caps for his country, admits Solomona would be a worthy Land Rover Discovery of the Season winner should he pick up the prize this week.
“Playing in a side like Sale, where it’s been a tough season, it can sometimes be difficult to shine,” said Moody, who is a Land Rover ambassador and was commenting on this year’s shortlisted nominees for the Land Rover Discovery of The Season award, which recognises the most impressive young rugby player in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
“But the fact that he’s been able to shine through the difficulties and just get on and play his rugby, without worrying about essentially learning a new game, and be nominated, is very much a success in itself.
“In that transfer from rugby league you can sometimes get lost in how to play the game, but he’s just come and played; Denny has that natural ability and that’s why he’s found himself nominated for this award.
“It’s about taking those opportunities when you’re not under the microcosm of the spotlight so much, as some of the other guys are when they switch codes.
“Denny has reaped the rewards of not having the pressure mounted on his shoulders – he’s just able to go about his business and has done it incredibly well.
“It’s an incredibly strong group of young players that have come to the fore, so for Denny to come through and perform as well as he has done to be nominated is a big credit to him.”
The Land Rover Discovery of the Season award recognises the most impressive young rugby player in Aviva Premiership Rugby. Land Rover is the Official Vehicle Partner of Premiership Rugby and long standing supporter of grassroots rugby.
If Solomona was to scoop the gong, he would join an illustrious list of former winners – current England internationals in Maro Itoje, Henry Slade, Billy Vunipola, Joe Launchbury, and Owen Farrell have won the last five awards.
But despite that impressive success rate, Moody is urging the Sale man to keep his head down and kick on once again next season.
He said: “All these guys should feel incredibly proud to have been shortlisted – but young players can never afford to think after some recognition that it’s all going to be rosy from here on in.
“They need to remember all the hard work that got them to this place and never lose sight of that. All the former winners are where they are now, playing for England, because of the hard work that they continued to put in.
“Sometimes when you’re successful and praise is put upon you, you can lose sight of what it takes to play rugby at the highest level.
“So while there are some brilliant individuals on this line-up that are making big waves, I would say there is a huge rugby world open to them if they make the most of it. This nomination is a huge stepping stone from that respect.”
Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover is Official Vehicle Partner of Premiership Rugby and has a heritage in rugby at all levels; from grassroots to elite. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal