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Five more Saints added to Senior Academy line-up for 2019/20

Northampton Saints can today announce that five young Saints have put pen to paper on new contracts ahead of the 2019/20 season, which see them remain within the Club’s Senior Academy.

Alex Coles, Devante Onojaife, Toby Trinder, Fraser Strachan and Ollie Sleightholme all played first-team rugby in Black, Green and Gold last term, as well as impressing for the Wanderers side in the Premiership Rugby Shield competition.

“All five players have represented their countries at age-group level, so I’m looking forward to seeing what more is to come from the group.”

Mark Hopley, academy manager

The quintet made up just half of the Academy players to graduate into first-team action during the 2018/19 campaign – with ten in total making their senior debuts – and academy manager Mark Hopley is hopeful the group can continue to make the race for selection as competitive as ever.

“Chris Boyd showed last season that he’ll pick players to play in the first team based on form,” he said.

“Having as many young players as possible battling for the shirt is only going to help Northampton Saints as we look to build on an encouraging campaign just gone.

“All five players have represented their countries at age-group level and also played their part in the Club lifting our first silverware in five years back in March, so I’m looking forward to seeing what more is to come from the group.”

Coles and Sleightholme have just returned from international duty with England at the 2019 World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Argentina.

Towering lock Coles was scouted by the Club as a 13-year-old and earned his first full-time contract ahead of last season, where he made six appearances and scored a try in the European Challenge Cup victory over Timisoara Saracens.

The fleet-footed Sleightholme – son of former Saint, Jon – notched up seven tries in as many first-team appearances in Black, Green and Gold last season. With a Commonwealth Youth Games silver medal, a Premiership Rugby Sevens Bowl winners’ medal, and the record for the fastest-ever debut try in Premiership Rugby history already in his locker, he is certainly one to watch.

Meanwhile Onojaife rose through Saints’ Academy system as a loosehead prop before switching to the back row at Under-18s level, making his first-team debut in that position back in 2016. The 21-year-old also gained international honours representing Scotland U20s during the 2018 Six Nations.

“Age is only a number and so I’m excited to see Alex, Devante, Toby, Fraser and Ollie buy back into what we are trying to achieve here at Franklin’s Gardens.”

Chris Boyd, director of rugby

Trinder was involved in both the Six Nations and World Rugby Under-20s Championship in 2018 with England, having already represented the Red Rose at Under-17 and Under-19 level. The loosehead prop made his senior debut last season, coming off the bench against Wasps in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

And Scotland Under-20s international Strachan made his first Saints appearances in the same competition against Bristol Bears and Wasps, adding a European debut two months later against Dragons – with the centre having already twice claimed the Premiership Rugby Shield title as part of the Wanderers squad.

Director of rugby Chris Boyd added: “I’m thrilled to see five more really promising young footballers commit themselves to the Club for the coming season.

“Age is only a number and so I’m excited to see Alex, Devante, Toby, Fraser and Ollie buy back into that message and what we are trying to achieve here at Franklin’s Gardens.”