England trio in line for award
OWEN FARRELL leads a three-strong English challenge for the Six Nations player of the championship award, along with Saracens team-mate Maro Itoje and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury. The trio were included yesterday on a 12-man shortlist for the prize, which is decided by public vote. Last year’s winner, Scotland full back Stuart Hogg, is on the list, as are the Welsh duo Ken Owens (hooker) and Rhys Webb (scrum-half). Toulon confirmed yesterday that Mike Ford, the former England and Bath coach, will be leaving the club in the summer. But speculation that he may take charge of Leicester — where his sons George and Joe are moving at the end of the season — was unfounded. Australian Matt O’Connor will return to the Tigers as head coach in April. He replaces Aaron Mauger, who will leave the role after Saturday’s match against Northampton Saints. Premiership Rugby have given formal backing to a new global season structure which, from 2019-20, will see league campaigns start in early September and run until the end of June.
In the frame: Maro Itoje (left) and Joe Launchbury Driving force: Owen Farrell starred in the Six Nations