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Courtney Lawes to leave Northampton Saints

After 17 seasons at Northampton Saints, Courtney Lawes will depart the Club at the conclusion of the 2023/24 campaign after electing to finish his illustrious career with one final adventure overseas at French side CA Brive.

A legend in Black, Green and Gold, Lawes has played 274 matches for Northampton to date, while also racking up 105 Test caps for England prior to his international retirement, and a further five for the British & Irish Lions.

Having risen through the Club’s Academy ranks, and growing up just around the corner from cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, the 35-year-old first pulled on a Saints jersey back in 2007 and has since proven himself to be one of the greatest players of all time to represent Northampton.

Lawes admits he will leave the Club with a heavy heart, but placed his family’s long-term future at the centre of his decision to move on.

“I want to make it clear that I really would have liked to end my career as a one-club man, and Saints did absolutely everything they possibly could to make that happen – our conversations were all very positive,” said Lawes.

“But, first and foremost, I have to make sure that my family and I are in the best position possible for my retirement, which will be in the next couple of years.

“This is likely to be the last contract I’ll ever sign, and the offer I have received to play overseas will be transformational for my family, so there was no way I could turn it down and I took the decision to move away from Northampton.

“I’m so grateful for everything that Saints has given to me. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to play so long for my hometown, and the supporters have been amazing through it all – in both the good times and the bad.

“I’ve been through it all with Saints and I just hope that my efforts on the pitch have reflected my appreciation for the Club. It’s obviously incredibly sad for me to be leaving, but ultimately, I know I am leaving Saints in really good hands on and off the pitch with the players, coaches and staff we have.”

Courtney Lawes

“I know that they will continue to push on and I hope they can become the best side in England for an extended period of time. I’ll always be a massive supporter of Northampton Saints.

“I’ve always given everything I have to the Club, and that’s only going to continue for these final few months in Black, Green and Gold. We’ve got a brilliant opportunity to go and do something amazing this season, and it would be fantastic to leave on the high note of winning a trophy, so I’ll be giving it my all to achieve that.”

Lawes has won a series of trophies in Black, Green and Gold, and been one of the Club’s outstanding performers ever since breaking into the first team as an 18-year-old.

After helping Northampton win promotion back to the Premiership from National One at the first time of asking, he then lifted both the European Challenge Cup in 2009 and the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2010 with Saints, before a European Champions Cup final followed in 2011.

Lawes was then instrumental in Northampton’s greatest season to date in 2014, with the side claiming their first-ever Premiership title and a second Challenge Cup trophy within eight days of each other.

He was voted the Club’s Player of the Season in 2019/20 by Saints supporters, reached the 250-appearance milestone for Saints against Ulster in January 2022, and was named an Honorary Freeman of Northampton by the Town Council last December.

The 34-year-old has aged like a fine wine in a Black, Green and Gold jersey, with his performances this season demonstrating that Lawes remains one of the very best players in the world – a fact that was not lost on Saints during contract negotiations, according to the Club’s Chief Executive Mark Darbon.

Darbon said: “Clearly, it’s very disappointing that Courtney has decided to leave Saints, but it is a decision he has made with the long-term future of his family in mind, which we fully understand and respect.

“We obviously wanted Courtney to stay and we made him a significantly increased offer to remain part of our squad.

“But this will probably be his last-ever contract, and given the incredible service he has already given to the Club over the last 17 seasons, no-one can begrudge him accepting a very substantial alternative offer to finish his career overseas.”

Mark Darbon, Northampton Saints Chief Executive

“Given the financial challenges that we, like all Premiership clubs, are still navigating, ultimately we just could not compete with the transformational scale of the offer Courtney has received, without impacting our investment into the wider squad and the Club more broadly.

“We will miss him around cinch Stadium, but he departs on great terms with our very best wishes for the future, and we hope to send him off in style at the end of this season.”

From his Test debut in 2009 to his international retirement in October, Lawes was an ever-present for England, representing his country at four Rugby World Cups (helping the Red Rose reach the Final in 2019) and winning three Six Nations titles including one Grand Slam.

Lawes captained England throughout the 2021/22 season, and also twice toured with the British & Irish Lions (in 2017 to New Zealand and 2021 to South Africa) earning five further Test caps in the process.

“It’s impossible to sum up Courtney’s contribution to Saints and England over the last 17 years,” added Northampton’s Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson.

“He’s still one of the very best – if not the best – number 6s in the world, he’s done it all in a Northampton shirt, his international experience is almost unparalleled, and off the field he gives our group so much in terms of confidence and leadership.

“I am convinced he would have loved to stay here at Saints to finish his career, but sometimes the offer is simply too good to refuse, and he’s absolutely earned the right to accept it. He’s got a young family and I’m sure this new adventure will be a great experience for them too.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“It speaks volumes about Courtney’s talent and mindset that he didn’t feel like he got the best out of himself last season in a Saints shirt because of injuries, so he decided to stay on for another year and finish his time in Northampton on his own terms.

“Clearly, he’s achieved that in how well he’s played – he’s been extraordinary this season so far – and I’m sure he’ll continue to push himself for these final few months because of how strongly he feels for the Club and the town.

“It’s going to be the end of an era when Courtney hangs up his boots here, and the squad has to ensure we harness that emotional energy properly – it can be a positive and powerful thing, but we also need to stay focused on what we’re trying to do for the remainder of the season.”

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