Every Academy is judged by the talent it produces. Northampton Saints is no different, and the club's Academy has been structured to provide a consistent stream of players who are able to represent not just the Northampton first team, but regularly earning international honours as well.
Over the last few years the Academy has produced players like Courtney Lawes, now an England regular, and Paul Diggin, who has played well over 100 times for the Saints in the Premiership and Heineken Cup - not to mention four members of England's first Junior World Championship winning side this summer.
In a bid to increase this productivity, the past two-and-a-half seasons have seen the Academy structure at the Saints further clarified, with almost all Academy graduates progressing on a pathway that involves three distinct sections - the Elite Player Development Group (or EPDG), the Junior Saints Academy and the Saints Senior Academy.
Saints Senior Academy
The Saints Senior Academy is the next step in the development of players who have been identified as having the potential to progress as a professional and eventually represent the club at a first team level. Generally, these players will be 18 to 19-years-old and will have demonstrated the necessary skill levels and mental aptitude to succeed at higher level throughout their previous rugby education.
The next step involves training on a full-time basis alongside the Saints first team, not only to increase their physical development and hone technical skills, but also to further solidify their perspective of what it takes to become a part of the senior squad. These players will contribute largely not only in Academy fixtures, but also for the Wanderers in the 'A' League and often the first team across all three competitions, gaining valuable experience from the players around them that can only come from experiencing regular match action.
Senior Academy players are sourced almost solely from the Junior Saints Academy, however, on the rare occasion, exceptional school leavers will be invited straight into the Senior Academy setup. In either case, a player's progress will have been closely tracked by the Saints Academy management and scouting network before a contract or trial is offered.
Junior Saints Academy
The Junior Saints Academy programme is designed to further prepare players for a possible career in professional rugby. Aged between 16 and 18 (coinciding with the Sixth Form), the players are selected for their prowess on the field and their attitude off it, with particular emphasis on successfully completing their school education alongside experiencing a higher standard of rugby.
The club's focus is to develop players across all components of performance - technical/tactical, physical preparation, mental wellbeing, and overall lifestyle. At the heart of the programme is the notion of individual development within a team environment, supported by principles of long-term athlete development. The Academy staff's belief is that players' development is best assessed by what they do on the pitch, and the competitive playing programme enables the coaches to refer an individual's progress back to the context of a game.
The club does not hold open trials for entry into the Junior Academy Programme. Most players are selected from our Elite Player Development Groups. However the club operates an extensive scouting network that refers players directly to the Academy for consideration.
For further information regarding a trial period (players over 16 years of age ONLY), email firstname.lastname@example.org
Elite Player Development Group (EPDG)
The Elite Player Development Groups identify and develop players in the Under-14, Under-15 and Under-16 age groups. Based in two centres - Northampton (East Midlands) and Stowmarket (Eastern Counties) - the EPDGs are managed by a head coach along with three support coaches.
The coaching curriculum at these centres will ensure that players who are aspiring to play for the Saints first team are suitably educated and equipped with the essential physical foundations for being a professional sportsman.
Players are then selected from the EPDG to attend the Junior Saints Academy sessions which are based at Franklin's Gardens, home of the Saints. The EPDG programme is a major step onto the elite player development pathway and is placed above CB representative rugby and the new RFU Schools of Rugby initiative.
Any queries regarding the Elite Player Development Group programme can be addressed to Ross Stewart, EPDG manager, by emailing email@example.com