Ollie Phillips: Recognition for the Premiership’s unsung heroes

Ollie Phillips
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Ellis Genge is turning into a top-class performer and has a big England future (Source: Getty)

Playmaker Jimmy Gopperth has swept the board in terms of awards, having this week added the Premiership player of the year gong to his Wasps and Rugby Players’ Association crowns.

But away from Gopperth and those who have been honoured with British and Irish Lions selection for their tour of New Zealand, which gets underway on 3 June, other less celebrated figures have made significant contributions at club level. Here are a handful of this season’s unsung Premiership heroes.

Semesa Rokoduguni, Bath

Rokoduguni is second only to Newcastle’s Vereniki Goneva in terms of metres gained in the Premiership. For the 29-year-old winger to have such instability internationally – he was in and out of the England set-up in the autumn and is now seemingly completely out of favour – but to keep playing so well domestically is testament to him. His form was a crucial element in Bath returning to the top six.

Ellis Genge, Leicester Tigers

For most sides the enforced retirement of Argentina loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza would have been a hammer blow but Genge has stepped up to the mark and is developing into a top-class player. He’s a Leicester-type player of old: a physical tough nut with scrummaging prowess, but he is also mobile and versatile around the pitch. He has a solitary cap but I believe he has an incredible England future ahead of him.

Mark Wilson, Newcastle Falcons

One of the main reasons why Newcastle have turned the corner and managed to cement themselves as a Premiership outfit. He is a massive unit and so physical, especially when it comes to the close-contact areas. The 27-year-old is a big, powerful back-row ball-carrier who reminds me of World Cup winner Richard Hill as he does a lot of vital ugly stuff that goes unnoticed.

Geoff Parling, Exeter Chiefs

I could have easily picked winger James Short or No8 Thomas Waldrom from Exeter but Japan-bound Parling gets the nod. He has a wealth of experience from England and the British and Irish Lions and is a master at the line-out. I know from having played with him how much attention he gives to that. For a second row he’s not the biggest or tallest but is so dominant.

Richard Wigglesworth, Saracens

The current Allianz Park internationals tend to grab the headlines but scrum-half Wigglesworth’s kicking game and decision-making is absolutely vital. He bosses the pack incredibly well and his kicking is very precise. He knows when to pass, when to push it wide and when to alleviate the pressure on No10 Owen Farrell and the backline. He’s pivotal to how Saracens play.

Christian Wade, Wasps

I have been massively impressed with back-rower Thomas Young and hooker Tommy Taylor but Wade has to be mentioned. I find it incredible that he can be the Premiership’s top try-scorer this season with 17 but not get picked for England’s tour to Argentina. To score the volume of tries he does but not get a look in with England is remarkable.

Ollie Phillips is a former England Sevens captain and now a director at PwC, focusing on organisational, cultural and technological change.@OlliePhillips11

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