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Leonard up for top award

England flanker Jane Leonard could join the likes of rugby greats Rory Underwood and Rob Wainwright this week if she is named the Combined Services Sports Personality of the Year.

Leonard, a Lance Corporal for the Royal Engineers based in Cambridgeshire and who has recently served in Iraq, has been nominated for the prestigious award alongside two other Combined Services sports women who have excelled in sport this year. The ceremony takes place at the RAF Club in Piccadilly on March 4th and the awards will be presented by HRH The Duke of Kent.

The 26-year-old, who plays her club rugby for Lichfield RFC, has been instrumental in helping England lead the race in the RBS 6 Nations championship this year, most recently against Ireland on Sunday when England ran out 22-5 winners.

Leonard has eight caps for England and was also involved in the historic victory against world champions New Zealand in November. She has also captained the Combined Services rugby team and will this year be hoping to be named in the England Women's World Cup squad, with the tournament taking place in London in August and September.

"I am stunned to have been nominated for this award," said Leonard, who is from Newcastle. "To be put in the same category as Olympians Dame Kelly Holmes and Peter Reed as well as rugby greats such as Rory Underwood and Rob Wainwright who have all gone on to win this award is quite staggering. It is wonderful to have been recognised for my efforts, but I know I am up against stiff competition from both the Royal Navy and the RAF. Either way it will be a great day for me and my family"

Leonard faces stiff competition for the award with Gemma Howells, a Combined Services swimmer nominated by the Royal Navy, and the RAF's Beverly Childs, a Great Britain Triathlete also nominated.

*photo credit: Rugby Matters