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Lee Radford to join Northampton Saints coaching team

Northampton Saints can today announce that Lee Radford will join the Club ahead of the 2023/24 season as an assistant coach, focusing on the team’s defence.

The 44-year-old has enjoyed a distinguished career so far in rugby league, winning numerous titles as both a player and a coach, and Saints’ Director of Rugby Phil Dowson is delighted to welcome Radford to his coaching set-up at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

“From the very first meeting we had with Lee, Sam [Vesty] and I were impressed by the clarity of his philosophy, the simplicity of the principles that underpinned it, and his enthusiasm for the challenge,” said Dowson. 

“If you couple that with his experience as a coach at club and international level in rugby league, he brings some fantastic leadership skill and a new perspective on our game which we’re very excited about.

“Lee’s very ambitious, committed and driven to succeed, and we feel like he brings an edge to our group and will connect with the players really well.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“He will have a lot to learn working in rugby union, coming into our set-up from a rugby league background, but clearly there is a great heritage of coaches who have made that transition very successfully. He will look at things through a different lens and we hope we can make some significant improvements based on those ideas.”

During a playing career which spanned 17 years, Radford made 158 appearances for Bradford Bulls in-between two spells at hometown club Hull FC (where he played 193 matches in total), and earned five international caps for England.

Radford became the youngest-ever player to represent Hull FC in 1998, and twice won the Super League Grand Final with Bradford Bulls in 2003 and 2005. He also reached two further Grand Finals (2004 and 2006), won the World Club Challenge in 2004, and claimed the Challenge Cup title in 2003.

Towards the end of his playing career, Radford was appointed defence coach at rugby union side Hull RUFC in National 2 North, winning the Yorkshire Cup title in 2011.

And once he hung up his boots permanently in 2011, Radford quickly ascended from an assistant coach role at Hull FC to head coach in 2013, winning back-to-back Challenge Cup titles in 2016 and 2017, and scooping the Super League’s Head Coach of the Year Award in 2016.

After leaving Hull FC, Radford took over as Castleford Tigers’ head coach from the start of 2022 until March of this year. He was also appointed defence coach by Samoa for the Rugby League World Cup which was held in England in 2022, helping the side all the way to the Final where they were eventually beaten by Australia.

He said: “Speaking to Phil and Sam gave me a really good feeling of what Northampton Saints are about, and also a great indication about their relationship as well, as you can tell there is a real closeness there in terms of how they work together.

“That was really appealing to me, as those relationships are so important within an elite rugby environment, and coming down to look around the Club just reaffirmed all the great things they said about the place, the people, and the infrastructure here.

“Saints places the youth structure and production of homegrown talent at the very heart of what they do, which really closely aligns to my experience during my coaching career so far as well.”

Lee Radford

“The brand of rugby Northampton already plays is really appealing and exciting to watch, but my job now is to add some stiffness and resilience where I can to this team, so we can really forge our own identity defensively and make some big improvements.

“Moving from league into union is a massive challenge, but a very exciting one. I still have a lot to learn about rugby union, but I’ve had some great conversations with the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Martin Gleeson, and Jamie Langley already about the game and how to best make that transition, so I can’t wait to get to work.”

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