Leicester Tiger Thomas Waldrom wins Rugby Players' award

Thomas Waldrom
Waldrom has played 31 games for Tigers this season

Leicester number eight Thomas Waldrom has been named the Rugby Players' Association player of the year.

Waldrom, who has helped Tigers top the table and reach the Premiership final, said: "It's a huge honour and caps a great first season in the Premiership."

The New Zealander, 28, topped the poll ahead of Northampton wing Chris Ashton and Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans.

Centre Manu Tuilagi, 20, made it an awards double for Tigers, winning the young player of the year award.

Tuilagi, who is banned for the Twickenham showpiece for punching Ashton in the semi-final victory over Northampton, polled 60% of the votes to finish ahead of Saints flanker Tom Wood and Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell.

It is the second time that Leicester have taken both prizes at the Rugby Players' Awards, following on from Martin Corry and Harry Ellis in 2005.

Waldrom, who moved to Welford Road from Super Rugby side Crusaders at the start of the season, added: "I know it's always said, but being voted for by your fellow players really is a big deal. There's no greater compliment and I'd like to thank the players who voted for me.

"It was a total shock when I found out because there are so many fantastic players in the Premiership who could've won it. I was happy just to make the nominees list.

"It's amazing to be seen in the same league as a player like Nick Evans who was also on the shortlist. I personally voted for Tom Wood. He puts in a tremendous amount of work and I think he's had a wonderful season.

"When I first arrived here my expectations were to play a few games here and there, but due to a few injuries I got a run of games and was able to build on that."

Tuilagi, was also voted Premiership young player of the year, said: "I'd like to thank all the players who have voted for me. It is a big honour and I am humbled to win this award."

Tuilagi was banned for five weeks after landing three head punches on Ashton - an episode he has apologised for and vowed to learn from.

"It is a big disappointment that the season won't finish in the way it started for me and that I won't be playing in the Premiership final this weekend," the 20-year-old said.

"I'm sorry about what happened in the semi-final and I will do my best to learn from my mistake and become back a better player."

The special merit award was presented to retiring Bath lock Danny Grewcock while Lawrence Dallaglio was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Leeds' James Tincknell picked up an award for "his inspiring progress after a life-threatening car crash".