Northampton Saints chairman John White has high praise for the actions of Saints staff both on and off the pitch at Franklin's Gardens as plethora of exciting news has come out of the Club this week.
Read John's welcome and more in today’s official matchday programme, on sale for £3.50...
Good afternoon and welcome back to Franklin’s Gardens for this afternoon’s Premiership Rugby Cup fixture against Saracens.
The last time our rivals from north London were in town was the final of this very competition last year – let’s hope for the same result today and for another memorable afternoon of entertaining rugby!
"Despite having two losses on our copybook so far, I have been really pleased with what I’ve seen."John White
It’s great to see the Rugby World Cup capturing the imagination within the world of sport at the moment. The tournament in Japan has been a wonderful advert for our game so far and, as a proud Englishman, I am thrilled that Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Piers Francis have all already pulled on a white shirt on the biggest stage. But I am proud of every player representing both the Club and the town of Northampton so well, with Cobus Reinach (South Africa), Dan Biggar (Wales), Ahsee Tuala (Samoa) and Api Ratuniyarawa (Fiji) all playing for their countries too.
Japan has proved to be an excellent host – the whole country seems cock-a-hoop with rugby and is getting behind both the tournament and their own team, with every stadium bathed in red and white. This can only be good for the game, and of course it helps that some world class rugby is being played too! South Africa vs New Zealand on the tournament’s opening weekend was a match of the highest quality, while Wales’ narrow victory over Australia and Japan’s sensational shock win against Ireland were both wonderful contests for the neutral.
A bit closer to home, I was delighted with the announcement this week that we have secured David Ribbans’ signature for at least another two seasons. I have always been a big fan of David’s; he is an abrasive player who never takes a backward step, and he has really grown into his impressive frame over the last 12 months or so. He’s one of our most consistent performers at just 24 years old, and retaining his services is another example of Chris Boyd and his team trusting young, English-qualified talent to continue to build for the future.
I would also like to extend my congratulations to our head groundsman, Andy Miller, and his superb team, who have been shortlisted for two prestigious Institute of Groundsmanship awards. I’m sure you will agree, our pitch always looks immaculate and from talking to my contemporaries at other clubs I know we are the envy of every Premiership side. We are lucky to have such a talented, hard-working ground staff looking after Franklin’s Gardens, so I wish them all the very best at the awards ceremony.
Finally, I’m sure by now you will have all seen news of Tom Wood’s forthcoming Testimonial year. I’m absolutely thrilled we’ve agreed to support Tom in this, his tenth season as a Saint, all in the name of two important charities; Restart Rugby and the Northampton Saints Foundation. More information about the charities and the events Tom is hosting this year can be found on his website, www.tomwoodtestimonial.com – please do take a look and get behind it, as few people will ever be as great a servant to the Club as Tom has been.
But back to today, and what will hopefully be a first win of the new season for our boys wearing Black, Green and Gold. We are in the middle of an interesting few weeks in English club rugby; it seems every side is approaching the Premiership Rugby Cup differently this year, with the first block of four matches immediately preceding the start of the new Gallagher Premiership campaign. Despite having two losses on our copybook so far, I have been really pleased with what I’ve seen. Almost all of our incoming and academy players have been given an opportunity to see what playing first team rugby for Northampton is about, and have given an excellent account of themselves. Last weekend’s narrow defeat to Wasps was one of the most entertaining games I have seen in years – anyone viewing these matches as ‘preseason friendlies’ was clearly mistaken! Most importantly, it’s clear that Chris Boyd and his coaches are doing what is right to get the team in perfect shape for the start of the Premiership which is now just a fortnight away.
I am full of optimism for what promises to be a tough but excellent season here at Franklin’s Gardens, and I hope you’ll join me in giving Saints your most vociferous backing today!
Enjoy the game.