With a whopping eight Academy starlets making their debuts over the last two weeks, Academy manager Simon Sinclair believes the pathway has never been clearer for Northampton Saints’ young charges.
Director of rugby Chris Boyd has thrust the Club’s youngsters into the limelight in the Premiership Rugby Cup competition, and they are yet to disappoint with the side picking up back-to-back wins over Bristol Bears and Wasps.
“For the Academy to be making such a big contribution to the first team is huge. It’s exactly what we're aiming for.”Simon Sinclair, academy manager
Of the eleven players to pull on the Black, Green and Gold jersey for the first time in those matches, eight are currently on the books within the Club’s Senior Academy set-up, and Sinclair is thrilled to see such a strong return.
“We’ve always had a rich heritage of producing quality home-grown players here at Franklin’s Gardens, but I hope what we are seeing now is the very start of the next generation,” he said.
“Against Bristol Bears we had 12 current Academy players or graduates in the matchday squad, followed by 13 on Sunday at Wasps – with [Academy head coach] Mark Hopley presenting the new caps with their first match jerseys.
“It’s huge for the Academy to be making such a big contribution to the first team. It’s exactly what we are aiming for throughout our recruitment and training process.
“Plus seeing players like Ehren Painter, James Grayson, Alex Mitchell and Fraser Dingwall kick on in the Premiership this season, all the guys know the opportunity is there if they work hard enough.”
It has not only been a momentous fortnight for Saints’ Senior Academy players, with several of the Club’s Under-18s making the most of their half-term break.
Josh Gillespie and Ollie Newman were both put through their paces whilst away on an England U18s development camp, while seven Saints apprentices were all invited to join the first-team camp for the first time – an experience that Sinclair insists is invaluable.
“To see Josh Gillespie make his debut on Sunday made us very proud indeed.”Simon Sinclair, academy manager
He added: “Being exposed to this environment as often as possible at this age really is the best way to prepare them for life as a professional rugby player.
“It’s not just getting used to the intensity of training; it’s making sure their timekeeping is spot on, learning more about nutrition, nailing their recovery – the list goes on.
“The players received direct feedback from the first-team coaches and also took advantage of going through their development plans with Mark Hopley and other Academy staff, as well as taking on other challenges like media training off the pitch.
“They all did brilliantly, and to see Josh Gillespie handed the opportunity to make his debut on Sunday made us very proud indeed.
“He became the youngest-ever Saint in the professional era which is an incredible achievement for him, but I’m confident we’ll see all of these young guys wearing Black, Green and Gold in the not-so-distant future.”
Tickets to see Saints return to Gallagher Premiership action against Wasps are still available. Book your place from £36 adults and £16 juniors now by CLICKING HERE.