Ray Longland

Ray Longland

Years: 1927-1948
Position: Prop
Appearances: 356
England caps: 19

Ray Longland was a stalwart of the Saints and England front row. Born in Lavendon in 1908 he joined the club from neighbours Bedford and played his first game against Nottingham at Beeston on December 3rd, 1926.

It was the start of a 21-year playing career that included two seasons as captain - in 1936 and 1947 - and 356 appearances. Longland was - for a prop - also a prolific points scorer, notching 14 penalties and 26 conversions to add to his 17 tries. But it was his uncompromising forward play that made his name.

Longland had a reputation for being at once fearsome for his opposite number, while at the same time looking after his front-row partners. Vivian Jenkins, who chose Longland in his all-time British team, said: "I will only repeat the remark once made to me by a famous hooker who said: 'Packing with Ray is so comfortable; it's like getting into bed'."

His fitness was also legendary and upon joining the Royal Air Force - in which he was given the rank of corporal - at the start of the Second World War he was made a Physical Training Instructor, based at Skegness.

At a time when international matches were few and far between Ray Longland's amassing of 19 England caps was nothing short of outstanding, and the total would stand as a club record until the 1950s. His international career began and finished against Scotland in 1932 and 1938, but he played in several high profile wartime matches such as the 1942 international against Wales in Swansea as well as a Combined Services inter-code match at Bradford's Odsal. Furthermore, Longland also became the first Saint to play in an England winning side against New Zealand, in 1936.

Closer to home Longland played a full part in two of the East Midlands' finest hours. On November 14th 1931 he was one of seven Northampton forwards that helped to overcome the hitherto unbeaten South African tourists in front of an estimated 30,000 at Welford Road. Then, on March 20th 1934, he won the region's first ever County Championship against Gloucestershire at Franklin's Gardens.

A club dinner was held in the then 30 year-old Longland's honour in 1938. Nevertheless he continued to play for the club until 1948 and was awarded a club cap in 1947.

Longland died of leukemia in 1975.