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John White: Read the Chairman’s programme notes

Northampton Saints chairman John White is relishing getting another Gallagher Premiership season underway this afternoon at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens. 

Read John’s welcome and more in today’s official matchday programme, on sale around the ground and HERE for £3.50...

Good afternoon and a very warm welcome back to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens for this afternoon’s Gallagher Premiership match against London Irish – our first league fixture on home soil of the 2022/23 season.

Last week, we got off to something of a false start in terms of hosting matches here at the Gardens, with our Premiership Rugby Cup match against Saracens on Thursday postponed just an hour before kick-off following the announcement of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It has been very touching this week, during a time of sadness and reflection across the country, to see the tributes to Her Late Majesty flooding in across Northamptonshire. It seems everywhere I go, I see flags at half-mast, shop windows being dressed and wreaths being laid.

Queen Elizabeth II visited Northamptonshire several times throughout her life, first coming as a 20-year-old Princess in 1946 to open the General Hospital and Grendon Hall. After a visit to Corby in 1961, she returned alongside Prince Philip in 1965 and 1982 to inspect the Church’s factory and open the National Lift Tower respectively – both just a stone’s throw from our home at Franklin’s Gardens. Her last visits to the county came in 2001 (Kettering and Corby) and then Corby again in 2012 as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The Queen contribution to public life, and particularly towards the sporting landscape of our country, was immeasurable, and I’m sure you will join me and everyone at Saints in keeping the Royal Family in your thoughts at this time.

During this period of national mourning, you might notice some changes to today’s matchday experience at Franklin’s Gardens. As a mark of respect for Her Late Majesty, we have scaled back a lot of our entertainment today but will observe a minute’s silence ahead of kick-off and be treated to a rendition of the national anthem, God Save The King, by operatic soprano Emily Haig. I hope you will take note to get to your seats early today to join in with this tribute. Normal service will be resumed around the ground next weekend, after the Queen’s state funeral on Monday, for our East Midlands Derby match against Leicester Tigers.

Your support this afternoon is appreciated even more greatly given the unexpected change to the date of this fixture from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon. After our away match against Sale Sharks was moved from Friday to Sunday last weekend, it was also the right approach to move today’s match back one day. While there are rare instances when a team might be asked to play twice in the Premiership within a few days, generally speaking the league’s approach is to try to avoid this if possible.

These were of course exceptional circumstances, but I understand many of you will have already made plans for this afternoon when the game was scheduled for Friday, so we thank you for being here with us to support the team in what is a very important Gallagher Premiership match.

Our recent record here against London Irish – with seven wins in our last eight Premiership meetings here at the Gardens – is excellent, but the Exiles are most definitely not a team to be under-estimated. Their qualification for the Heineken Champions Cup last season was evidence of the progress they have made in recent years, and Irish’s back line in particular contains some of the most dangerous young players in the league – so in many ways, they are a side like Saints! Whatever the result, I think we can expect a free-flowing match packed with action today.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share a couple of important updates from the Club this week, in case you had missed them. First of all, we announced that the first Supporter Forum of the season will take place on Wednesday 30 November in the Rodber Bar here at the stadium. As ever, the event is free to attend and we hope to see as many of you as possible to ask questions of myself, our Chief Executive Mark Darbon, and Director of Rugby Phil Dowson. You can book your place now by filling in your information HERE.

Secondly, you may have seen that we also released another behind-the-scenes video – our third in quick succession – to give you all an insight into how the squad prepared for the new season. The focus of this film was the Blakiston Challenge, an important preseason fitness test which links closely to
the story of a former Saint, Freddie Blakiston, who was awarded the Military Cross for his heroics during the First World War. At the time of writing, it has racked up almost 100,000 views across all of our platforms, so if you haven’t already I’d thoroughly recommend giving it a watch. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time!

I hope you enjoy the game this afternoon, and we’ll see you all back here next week for the Derby.

John White

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