Northampton Saints chief executive Mark Darbon is looking forward to the first East Midlands Derby of the season this afternoon in front of a packed-out cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.
Read Mark'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 match against Leicester Tigers – the first East Midlands Derby of the new season!
Derby Day in Northampton is one of the most, if not the most, important occasions in every campaign, and it’s incredibly exciting to play host so early in the new term with all teams still to find out where they will fit in the running for the Gallagher Premiership title this year. Tigers, of course, are the league’s defending champions and put together a very impressive campaign in 2021/22. We could not come away with any of our three skirmishes against them last term with a win, but as I am sure you will know, that does not tell the full story as in our semi-final meeting at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, we came extremely close to upsetting the applecart. Everyone at the Club felt we really took the game to Tigers that day, and but for a couple of bounces of the ball here and there, we could have been the ones booking our place at Twickenham for the Final.
So, as always, there is a lot on the line today, but the squad and coaches are not looking back at last season, only forward at what is to come for us this year – and last weekend’s win over London Irish was a great way to get off the mark! The team have been working incredibly hard all week, as they feel there are still a lot of improvements to make and lessons to learn from our opening two league games, but in my opinion the real positive has been seeing how deep our squad has become. We faced Sale Sharks and London Irish – two of the most dangerous sides in the league – with a significant number of players injured or otherwise unavailable, but were still fielding sides packed with quality which is testament to the Club’s recruitment over the past couple of years. This depth will stand us in great stead over the coming months, and is evidenced by the impressive list of players returning to the Black, Green and Gold jersey today; Dan Biggar, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Tommy Freeman and Fraser Dingwall, to name just a few.
In other news, you may well have seen that last week we announced a date for the first Supporter Forum of the new season, with sign-up available via our website. It came as absolutely no surprise to me whatsoever that this event – which is always incredibly popular – filled up in no time at all, and I am looking forward to meeting many of you on Wednesday 30 November. If you would like to add your name to the waiting list, you can do so at northamptonsaints.co.uk/supporter-forum.
By attending today’s match, you are also witnessing a small piece of Saints history, with our Club historian Graham McKechnie reliably informing us that this will be the 250th time that we have met Leicester Tigers in East Midlands Derby matches. Our long and storied history is one of the many things that makes Northampton Saints great, and it is something we cherish around the Club. So, milestones such as this one are moments to be celebrated, and I know you will warm up your vocal chords and get behind the team accordingly this afternoon!
Enjoy the game, and come on you Saints!