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Francis: There’s no better place to be than Saints

Northampton Saints centre Piers Francis believes continuing to pull on a Black, Green and Gold jersey is the best possible way to further his international aspirations with England.

The 30-year-old centre recently signed a new contract to extend his stay at Franklin’s Gardens, having become a Saint back in 2017 when he returned to the UK from the Auckland Blues.

Francis achieved a boyhood dream by appearing at last year’s World Cup in Japan with a Red Rose on his chest, but after being ruled out of several Saints matches this term with a head injury, was not called up to England’s subsequent Six Nations squad.

However, armed with a new Club contract and targeting a key role in Northampton’s run-in to the 2019-20 campaign, Francis is determined to ensure his hat stays in the ring.

“Playing for England remains my ambition – 100 per cent,” Francis told The Rugby Paper.

“I feel like my most productive years are ahead and from a playing perspective I’ve enjoyed my time at Northampton, so being here in England is a big factor for me.

“I’m concentrating on getting better and if you want to be in the England mix, there’s no better place to be than Saints to achieve it – and that’s what I intend to do.”

Piers Francis

“I’ve had a few texts from [England head coach] Eddie Jones and we’ve had Zoom calls for the outside backs, so I’m keeping in touch with the lads.

“It was a lifelong ambition to play in a World Cup for England and the experience has made me even hungrier. I understood my position in the team and that my opportunities would be limited if there were no injuries, but that only heightens my desire to be starting.

“You want to be right in the middle of it and that’s a big part of the reason I’ve recommitted to Saints. I wanted to stay in England to keep that hope alive around continuing my international career, which massively motivates me.”

Northampton will resume their Gallagher Premiership campaign in fourth place when Chris Boyd’s side take on Wasps on Sunday 16 August, and Francis believes they can have a big say in the title race.

“We feel we’re in really good shape,” he said. “There was a bit of a rocky period just before the pandemic, but we had a big result at Worcester to keep us in the top four.

“A lot’s happened in the meantime, but as a Club, Northampton’s probably dealt with it best – and I’m very happy to be moving forward with this team.

“We want to give ourselves an opportunity to win silverware now and, while we’d love to get a home semi-final, anything can happen when you hit the play-offs.

“Our sights are on Wasps in the middle of August and, hopefully, the sun will shine and we can hit the restart playing the kind of good rugby we know we can.”