It's raining tries at Franklin's Gardens at the moment and chief executive Mark Darbon is loving watching Northampton Saints' new generation of stars flourish.
Read Mark's welcome and more in tonight's official matchday programme, on sale for £3.50...
Good afternoon and welcome back to Franklin’s Gardens once again for this afternoon’s Gallagher Premiership match against Bath Rugby.
It feels like the home games are coming thick and fast for us at the moment – this is our fourth in a row, with another to come early next month against Bristol – but if today’s clash is anything like last weekend’s win over Sale Sharks, then we’re in for some more serious entertainment. It’s been raining tries at the Gardens over the last few weeks; we’ve averaged nine scores a game over our last six home matches, so hopefully you’ll agree that becoming a Season Ticket Holder at Franklin’s Gardens is very good value indeed!
"What is particularly pleasing is seeing so many of the younger players seizing their opportunities."Mark Darbon
What is particularly pleasing is seeing so many of the younger players seizing their opportunities and making Chris Boyd’s team selections so difficult at the moment. It’s been said a few times this season, but the dominant nature of last Saturday’s performance was a clear indication of the incredible crop of talent we have at the Gardens – these youngsters we hope will form the spine of the team for years to come.
One of those is of course 20-year-old James Grayson, who is enjoying an excellent season, and it was no surprise to us when it was announced earlier this week that he has won the Premiership Rugby Cup’s Breakthrough Player of the Year award. Jimmy’s form in our run to the Cup final has been superb, and he’s proven himself a very capable understudy to Dan Biggar in the league. Grayson joins an illustrious group to have scooped the gong, with the likes of Jack Nowell and Jonny May also on the list – and they haven’t done too badly since!
On the subject of the Premiership Rugby Cup final, I am thrilled to announce that ticket sales for the clash with Saracens have already topped 10,000. There’s still some way to go to achieve a sell-out, but with a month until the game the signs are good. Thanks to everyone who has bought a ticket so far, and don’t forget thousands more seats were released yesterday after the window for season ticket holders to reserve their usual place ended. Let’s make sure Franklin’s Gardens is packed to the rafters for a big day in the Club’s history!
It is obviously the time of year where we start to get a very clear idea of what the playing squad will look like next season. With eleven players already putting pen to paper to stay at the Gardens, we were delighted to announce on Wednesday that Tom Wood has also committed his future to the Club. Woody is already a Saints legend and understandably his contract renewal was a very popular one; I’m looking forward to watching many more titanic performances from him in the back row. Academy manager Simon Sinclair has also been busy, securing the signing of No.8 Tui Uru from Bury St Edmunds, and – based on his highlight reel – he looks to be an exciting talent for the future.
"Woody is already a Saints legend and understandably his contract renewal was a very popular one."Mark Darbon
We also announced this week that after seven seasons at the Gardens, Luther Burrell will be leaving the Club for pastures new next year. I wanted to congratulate Luther on a fantastic career at Saints, as he has given his all every time he has pulled on a Black, Green and Gold jersey. He’ll be sorely missed in Northampton as he is a hugely popular character around the Club and the town, but a move to his roots in Rugby League with Warrington beckons and – while he certainly agonised over the decision – it looks to be an exciting opportunity for he and his family. I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him the best of luck, but for the next few months Luther is firmly focused on finishing off his time at Saints with a flourish.
Back to today’s match, and another tough test awaits us against Bath. They are always a powerful, abrasive side packed with international talent – but let’s hope we can continue our excellent run of form and continue to climb the Premiership standings. Don’t forget; we’ll also be showing the big England v Wales match from Cardiff in the Rodber and Members bars after our game, so stick around to soak up the unique Six Nations atmosphere and watch two Saints in Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar go head-to-head.
Get behind the boys today and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Gardens in a fortnight for our game against Bristol.
Come on you Saints!