Dragons lock Will Rowlands has been named Wales Player of the Year by the Welsh Rugby Writers Association.
The 18-times capped Dragons second row follows in the footsteps of some true legends of Welsh rugby in picking up the prize.
Previous winners include Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams, Mervyn Davies, Phil Bennett, Terry Holmes, Jonathan Davies, Scott Gibbs, Ieuan Evans, Neil Jenkins, Rob Howley, Scott Quinnell, Gareth Thomas, Martyn Williams, Gethin Jenkins, Shane Williams, Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny and Alun Wyn Jones.
Rowlands figured in all but one of Wales’ matches during the season and was arguably the stand-out player during the Six Nations, leading the way for turnovers and making the second-most carries and tackles. He also impressed for the Dragons, having joined them from Wasps last summer.
Reacting to receiving the Lloyd Lewis trophy, the 30-year-old said: “It’s very special. I am really honoured. I have snuck in there among some people of much greater pedigree than myself. I am really touched. It’s great to make a little bit of history for myself.
“Playing for Wales means the world to me. After some good performances over the last year, this really puts the icing on the cake. It’s awesome.”
He continued: “From a personal point of view, it’s been my most satisfying season of rugby, definitely so with Wales. The personal highlight for me was definitely the Scotland game at home in the Six Nations. It was the first match I had started at the Principality Stadium in the Championship. It was an important win for us and the atmosphere was incredible.”
The 6ft 8ins, 19st 5lbs Rowlands was first drafted into the Wales squad by Wayne Pivac ahead of the 2020 Six Nations.
“It seems like a very long two years with a lot going on. It’s been a rollercoaster ride. It’s been amazing, with some highs and lows for sure, but I guess that’s professional rugby,” he said.
“I have always wanted to find a ceiling for myself and I always felt there was more to come. It obviously takes a bit of time to work your way into the national team and start playing how I want to be playing. That’s why this year I’ve felt satisfied because I feel like I’m an important part of the team now. I feel like I’ve played much more how I’m capable of.”
Further awards will be presented this week at a special event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Welsh Rugby Writers Association.