Northampton Saints Academy has strengthened its links with Moulton College by launching a new partnership.
Now the connection between the Club and college has been formalised through the creation of a partnership that will benefit future generations of aspiring rugby players and coaches.
Courses will be provided for school leavers aged 16 to 18 as well as an U19s option, with participants being able to play for Moulton College’s BUCS team. There will also be exciting opportunities to train alongside Northampton Saints Academy players, as well as with the Club’s strategic partners.
“There’s a long list of Northampton Saints players who’ve been through Moulton College so we’re delighted to create this new partnership. This is massive for us,” said Mark Hopley, Head of Academy at Saints.
“Strategically Moulton was a perfect fit; there are lots of benefits if the College is the right fit for those boys academically. We want to make the game inclusive for everyone.”Mark Hopley, Head of Academy at Saints.
“We’re working together to make sure we’ve got a strong state school offering for the boys coming through the pathway of aspiring players locally in the region.
“It’s about bridging the gap between what’s out there. We’ve got a lot of good private schools in our region where players get a lot of rugby, but we want to make sure that boys who are in our programme or on the peripherals of our programme have got somewhere that they can receive good coaching every day, which they’re not necessarily getting if they’re at a non-rugby playing school.”
As part of the new partnership, former Northampton Saints hooker Reece Marshall is rejoining the Club as Moulton College Academy Coach. Marshall made 60 appearances for the men in Black, Green and Gold over seven seasons after making his senior debut in 2015.
During the majority of his professional rugby playing career, the 28-year-old held numerous coaching roles at Dunstablians RFC, Northampton BBOB RFC, Northampton University and as a player/coach at Chinnor RFC upon leaving cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens in 2022.
Marshall also progressed through the ranks at Moulton College and captained the rugby team – making him ideally placed for a key role in the partnership.
“To have the opportunity to return to a Club I spent so much time at, so soon after leaving, is just fantastic. It’s a dream come true,” said Marshall, who is also Director of Rugby at Dunstablians RFC.
“The college provides an insight into what full-time rugby looks like. I left the professional game less than two years ago, so I am aiming to use my experiences of professionalism through my coaching.
“We want anyone who joins the college to look at what we provide, see this is a great way to progress their own game, and give themselves the best chance of making it as a professional rugby player.”Reece Marshall, Moulton College Academy Coach
“I also have the knowledge of working with community rugby players and young rugby players that might not have had the opportunity to join Saints’ DPP (Developing Player Programme) or PDG (Player Development Group) – we want to show them that there’s another pathway opportunity to get yourself to the professional game if you have the right attitude.”
Leigh Jones, Moulton College’s Head of School for Sport, oversees the academic provision for further education and higher education and will play a key role in ensuring a strong education and a good rugby pathway work seamlessly together.
He said: “We have had a strong affiliation partnership with Saints for the past ten or 15 years and it’s great to renew that. We were looking to bring a professional sport into the college and explore how we can essentially work closely with one another with a lot of our values and our ethos to fit with one another.
“We’ve seen how important the education side is to rugby players both in the game and those that maybe come in at an academy level, and then do not quite make it.
“It’s fundamental for any 16 to 19-year-old to put their education first whilst also trying to find a good pathway, whether that be links to sports coaching, or progression to university. We want to make sure they have the foundations for the rest of their life really.”Leigh Jones, Moulton College’s Head of School for Sport
Moulton College’s Head of Rugby, Phil Powell, shared his excitement in joining forces with Saints from the point of view of young rugby players, but also the coaches who will be guiding them.
“I’m buzzing to form a partnership with Saints,” he added. “Their ethos around how they play, what they want to do and how they support young players is aligned completely with my beliefs.
“Working together to get the best for the players and the students is the most important part, and if we can help get someone on the pathway to a Black, Green and Gold shirt that’s even better.
“I’ve known Hoppers [Mark Hopley] for quite a while and working with the rest of the Saints Academy coaching crew will be quite key for me. I can learn and develop as a coach. If I learn I can just impart that development and that knowledge onto players and make them better.”