By Will Thompson

Gloucester’s powerful young flanker Jake Polledri feels his incredible rise to prominence this season is down to the trust his coaches have placed in young players.

Polledri has featured on numerous award shortlists, the most recent of which is the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award due to his impactful debut campaign in the Aviva Premiership Rugby that has seen him become a regular on the highlights reel.

Having gone from playing National League 1 rugby with Hartpury only last season, to featuring regularly for Gloucester and even making his international debut for Italy, 22-year-old Polledri has arrived on the scene and claimed it’s not just down to himself.

“It’s always down to opportunities,” said the Land Rover Discovery of the season nominee, who will find out next Wednesday whether he has been successful.

“With Johan Ackermann (Gloucester’s director of rugby) he’s big on the young boys putting their hands up, regardless of how big a name you are in the sport, if you’re not performing there’s always people chomping at the bit to get into the shirt.

“It gives you massive confidence coming into the squad as a youngster and a newbie, and it’s exactly the same with Conor O’Shea with Italy.

“With the Six Nations squad it was a really young side, one of the youngest teams involved in that tournament, with lots of potential and I think the two coaches were on the same page in terms of that.

“I’m so glad that Conor backed me. To get that last little game in the Six Nations against Scotland was really good and I’m pleased to make the debut there at such a big tournament.

“In the matter of about six months of my professional career to be flagged down to be on the camps for Italy, it’s unbelievable, you can’t really put that into words, having Conor O’Shea texting you.”

Lining up next to the likes of Italian legend Sergio Parisse and opposite Scottish captain John Barclay is an experience few that come from Polledri’s background enjoy.

But he believes his experience playing in the lower leagues of English rugby intensely helped his progression and made him the physically brutish player he is today.

“My time in the national league was massively important,” said the Bristol-born forward.

“If you look at the route that some of the boys go through, 90% of players in the Premiership now have come through academies.

“The two seasons I was at Hartpury playing National One I played 59 out of 60 games, so it’s a lot of experience and a lot of learning.

“I think as a young lad being stuck in the academy triangle you don’t get enough game time, so for me to come through in that way I played at a good level.

“Hartpury play such an expansive game and I think that was crucial to my development in rugby, I’d recommend any player coming through to go to national league because it’s a great standard.

“To go one season to the next at Hartpury watching international players on TV and watching the European rugby while working in Subway, to being on the television 12 months later and being in the Six Nations and Premiership is just a different world.

“I’m so glad that I’ve been given those opportunities and it’s good that all the hard work that I’ve put in is paying off. There’s no real words you can use to describe that feeling.”

The Land Rover Discovery of The Season award recognises Premiership Rugby’s stand out young player. Land Rover has a heritage in rugby at all levels; from grassroots to elite. Follow @LandRoverRugby