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England international Lydia Thompson dazzled by talent at Saints' girls festival

Northampton Saints’ derby victory over East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers was not the only success story at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

The Club's community department also hosted their first ever girls-only matchday tournament, with six clubs from across the region converging on Northampton's training pitches to take part.

Under the watchful eye of Women's Rugby World Cup winner and 2017 World Rugby player of the year nominee Lydia Thompson, the Under-15s teams competed throughout the morning with Peterborough RFC claiming the inaugural title after beating Towcester and Old Northamptonians in the Cup pool.

And England wing Thompson admitted she was impressed with the high quality of rugby that was on display at the Gardens, after presenting Peterborough with the glistening trophy.

“There was some fantastic talent out there,” she said. “The girls were playing some great rugby and the teams looked really comfortable together. I’m sure it was an exciting day for the girls playing.

“A tournament like this is great exposure for them. It was very competitive, they got quite a few games in and you could see they all really wanted to win. 

“To be exposed to competitive, high-quality rugby is a great opportunity for girls that age. And the skill level was really high which was a joy to see.”

Saints rugby development officer Adam King added: “We launched our Redrow Girls Schools programme earlier this season, which has so far engaged over 250 girls in rugby through delivery of sessions in secondary schools throughout our region. 

“The introduction of girls-only tournaments and coaching sessions with clubs has allowed us to help support the growth of the game, raising interest within the local community; we are absolutely thrilled with the results so far.”

“To be exposed to competitive, high-quality rugby is a great opportunity for girls at this age.”

Lydia Thompson, England international

With Saints also holding their first ever girls-only summer camp in 2018, the Club's contribution towards women's rugby within the region has hit new heights over the past six months.

Franklin’s Gardens is now set to host the final of the Tyrrells Premier 15s – English rugby's leading women’s club rugby competition – on Saturday 27 April 2019 (kick-off 5.45pm), which will mark the first major women's fixture to take place at the ground. 

And Thompson believes Saints' growing involvement in the women's game can inspire both those already playing and girls who are considering taking up the sport.

She added “It’s fantastic to see. There’ll be such high-quality rugby on show for the Premier 15s final, with a mixture of international talent and young girls on the pitch. 

“You’ll be able to see some really good 18-year-olds who’ve been given a brilliant opportunity to run out in a big stadium like Franklin’s Gardens. 

“It’ll be a great opportunity for those girls playing and watching to really be inspired, and it’s also a chance for people to see how quickly women's rugby is progressing nowadays.”

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