Northampton Saints’ community department has begun a new partnership this season with the University of Northampton men’s rugby union side.
The UON Bears 1st XV compete in the BUCS Midlands 3B division, and are looking to continue on an upward trajectory from third and fourth-place finishes over the last two years.
Having been awarded ‘super team’ status by the University, this season they are benefitting from enhanced strength and conditioning training, but Saints’ community coaches also hope to help the Bears kick on by providing them with additional coaching resources.
Moreover, the squad will split playing their home fixtures between the 4G pitch at the University’s Waterside Campus and Saints’ first-team training pitch as part of the new relationship.
“We’re delighted to start up a new relationship between the Club’s community department and the University of Northampton’s rugby union set-up,” said Ben Lawrence, Saints’ Community Programmes Manager.
“As well as assisting during training sessions, on Bears matchdays our coaches are assisting with selection, running the team’s warm-ups and managing replacements and so on, so that the players can focus on their own performance on the field.
“It’s great for Saints to have a presence in a major local institution, and through the partnership we are also looking to extend opportunities to students to gain experience though coaching or analysis placements, and internships at the Club.”Ben Lawrence, Saints’ Community Programmes Manager
“If you look around the Premiership, there are a number of clubs with well-established links between their academies and local university sides – Gloucester with Hartpury University, Exeter with Exeter Univerity, and so on. We still have a long way to go, but long-term the ambition is definitely there for the University of Northampton to eventually provide another pathway into the Club.”
UON started off their new BUCS campaign with a defeat to Notthingham Trent before bouncing back with a resounding 53-14 triumph over the University of East Anglia – with league clashes against Nottingham Trent, Moulton and Warwick still to come before the Christmas break. The Bears have also progressed to the second round of the Midlands Conference Cup, courtesy of a second win over UEA.
As well as the men’s first XV, the Bears also have a new development squad – which is open for anyone new to rugby who is looking to get more experience playing the sport – and host Touch Rugby sessions on Sundays.
Club President Nick Cherrett said: “We’re an ambitious club and to secure this new partnership with Northampton Saints as well as super team status from the University in the same year is massive.
“Having Saints’ coaches around for training and matches is sure to make a difference for us on the field, and we’re really excited to play some fixtures on site at Franklin’s Gardens in the new year.”