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Mike Haywood to retire at end of 2022/23 season

Northampton Saints hooker Mike Haywood has announced his retirement from professional rugby at the end of the 2022/23 season.

The 31-year-old has made an incredible 269 appearances to date in Black, Green and Gold, scoring 34 tries in a career spanning 13 seasons at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

Haywood departs the Club to take up a coaching position at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich – a school which brought through current Saints first-team players Lewis Ludlam, Alex Moon, Emmanuel Iyogun, and Karl Wilkins – but insists he leaves Northampton with a heavy heart and memories to last a lifetime.

“It’s been an amazing journey for me with Saints – starting from playing locally in Colchester, going through the Academy system, and then into the first team,” said Haywood. “It’s hard to put into words how lucky I feel and how grateful I am to have had this experience at the Club.

“The standout season of course was when we won the Premiership and Challenge Cup in 2014, and winning the semi-final at the Gardens – that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

“But throughout the 13 seasons in Northampton, the support from the fans has been amazing and the staff at the Club are incredible.”

Mike Haywood

“In recent years, I’ve been unlucky with a few injuries, but the physios and S&C staff have been amazing getting me back to playing. I’m grateful to all the coaches for giving me the opportunity to wear the jersey.

“I always wanted ultimately to move back home at the end of my playing career, and the opportunity arose for me at St Joseph’s which felt too good to turn down. I’m really excited to teach there and hopefully develop some great rugby players who enjoy the game as much as I did.

Phil Dowson was fantastic in giving me time to make my decision, and I want to stay involved with the Club and the Academy as much as I can, still being within our catchment area in East Anglia. I came through the system there, so to be able to give some lads the opportunity to go on the same journey I did with Saints is something I also want to be a part of.”

Southend-born Haywood rose through the ranks within Saints’ Academy system and Colchester RFC, and signed his first full-time contract at the Club back in 2010/11, becoming a first-team regular for Northampton the following campaign and playing no fewer than 18 games a season for seven years until, unfortunately, injury struck in 2018.

He started both the victorious Premiership Rugby and European Challenge Cup finals in 2014, as well as the epic win over Leicester Tigers in that year’s Premiership semi-final. In the summer of 2016, Haywood was named in the Premiership Dream Team after a string of impressive performances during the 2015/16 season.

The hooker then became Saints’ top try scorer the following campaign, scoring eight times in 29 appearances that term, and played almost every game of the 2017/18 season – scoring an outstanding effort against Harlequins which was nominated for the league’s Try of the Season.

Despite a serious knee injury picked up on his 200th Saints appearance in 2018 keeping Haywood on the sidelines for most of the 2018/19 campaign, the hooker’s third piece of silverware with Saints came that term as the side toppled Saracens in the Premiership Rugby Cup final.

Haywood’s last-minute winning try at Bath proved vital in helping Saints reach the Premiership play-offs in 2021/22, during a campaign in which he also brought up his 250th Club cap against Bristol Bears.

“Mikey epitomises the journey that we want all our Academy players to go on,” said Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson. “We want to see local players turning out week after week for the Club, being successful, and pulling on the jersey over 250 times.

“He started both finals in 2014, and that speaks to how well he was playing during that period – arguably the most successful in the Club’s history – to keep someone like Dylan Hartley on the sidelines. He’s kept that level up for the best part of 13 seasons now, which is a seriously impressive achievement.

“Mikey’s always been a high energy and highly skilled player, but he’s also tenacious, a battler, and tough. He’s always had the ‘Saints First’ mentality that we talk about, and contributed massively to the group both on and off the field.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“He’s now completely focused on becoming the best coach he can be – he’s already been in the offices, picking the brains of our coaching group when he can. He’s very keen to stay involved with our Saints Academy process out in East Anglia, and to have a Northampton legend doing that out there is a very good outcome for the Club.

“At some point for every player, no matter how much you love the opportunities presented to you on the field, the opportunities off the field start to outweigh them.

“Mikey spent a long time thinking about this decision, but the chance to coach at St Joseph’s College and start a new career within the world of rugby, which he loves, is fantastic for him. So, we’re delighted with how his journey has worked out, and wish him the best for his new role.”

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