Northampton Saints chairman John White is excited to see the men in Black, Green and Gold play under the Friday Night Lights for the first time this season, before England take on South Africa in a blockbuster World Cup Final.
Read John's welcome and more in today’s official matchday programme, on sale for £3.50...
Good evening and welcome to Franklin’s Gardens for tonight’s match against Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership. This is our first Friday evening fixture of the season, and the timing couldn’t be better because we have a sensational weekend of rugby ahead of us!
First of all, tonight sees Saints try to remain top of the Premiership standings by notching up our third win in as many matches so far! It may be early days in the season, but it’s always absolutely fantastic to see Northampton at the top of the league table – and long may it continue. Another victory tonight would see us record our best start to a Premiership season for seven years, which would be a superb achievement for Chris Boyd and his squad.
"As a proud Englishman I hope the boys wearing the Red Rose on their chests bring the Webb Ellis Cup home!"John White, Chairman
Then, tomorrow morning, we can look forward to a Rugby World Cup final featuring England, South Africa, and – marvellously – up to four Saints. The Club is very proud to have four players involved and to have at least one guaranteed World Cup winner returning to Franklin’s Gardens next week. On behalf of everyone connected to Northampton Saints, we wish Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Piers Francis, and Cobus Reinach – as well as all the other coaches and players on both sides – the very best of luck for the game in Yokohama. The eyes of the world will be on them, and what a spectacle it’s been! Moreover, as a proud Englishman (and I’m sure Cobus won’t mind me saying!) I hope the boys wearing the Red Rose on their chests bring the Webb Ellis Cup home! Whatever the final result, we are incredibly proud of all of their achievements and I am sure they will make memories that will last a lifetime.
I must also extend my congratulations to Japan for hosting such a wonderful tournament to watch, despite some formidable challenges. Both Japan and World Rugby have done a great job, so I tip my cap to them – and if France 2023 is half as good, then we’re on for another amazing competition.
It’s great to see a few familiar faces back in the starting line-up for Saints tonight. Getting Mikey Haywood back from a long-term injury last weekend was like getting a brand-new player, and with the likes of Jamie Gibson also returning we are set to peak at just the right time. I’ve been really impressed too with some of our new signings in recent weeks. Saracens will be kicking themselves for letting Henry Taylor leave, while at just 19 years old, JJ Tonks has looked remarkably comfortable at the top level and is a huge prospect for us.
"I’m delighted to say that we finally welcomed both Owen Franks and Matt Proctor to UK soil this week."John White, Chairman
Speaking of new players, I’m delighted to say that we finally welcomed both Owen Franks and Matt Proctor to UK soil this week following the conclusion of the Mitre10 Cup competition in New Zealand. It feels like a long time since we signed them, but both are world class players and All Black internationals, and I know Chris Boyd is relishing the prospect of getting them into his ranks – I can’t wait to see them play in Black, Green and Gold. They will be in the crowd tonight, so if you spot either Matt or Owen, be sure to give them a warm Northampton welcome.
Back to tonight’s game then, and Harlequins are always a tough side to beat. We had two nail-biting matches against them last season and, since Paul Gustard took over as director of rugby, they have revived their fortunes. No doubt they will feel we poached a semi-final place from them last season, and will be keen to avenge that tonight.
But let’s hope we start off the weekend with a big win for Saints, and then another one for England tomorrow in Yokohama. Make sure you get behind the side tonight – remember we are top of the league at the moment! – and create that unique Franklin’s Gardens atmosphere the boys love playing in.
Enjoy the game!