Ten of Northampton Saints’ brightest Academy prospects were welcomed to Bedford Blues training earlier this week, with the Club’s core group of dual registered players for 2021/22 announced today.
In June 2020, Saints and Blues formally announced a strategic partnership to formally co-operate on a number of playing, coaching and training opportunities – this began last season, when a total of 16 Northampton Saints players pulled on the Bedford Blues jersey.
Contained within this year’s Blues contingent are eight familiar faces from last season; Ed Prowse, Ollie Newman, Connor Tupai, Dani Long-Martinez, Callum Burns, Ethan Grayson, Tom Litchfield and Josh Gillespie.
Meanwhile Bedford School-educated Kayde Sylvester and fellow back row Duane Willemsen will also train and play at Goldington Road this term and complete the core group of Northampton players.
“For the second season now this is an invaluable opportunity for our young lads to get some exposure to a good level of senior rugby and enjoy some game time,” said Mark Hopley, Saints’ Head of Academy.
“The Championship is a highly combative league, and our boys will of course go there and make mistakes, but it’s all about learning at this stage of their careers.”Mark Hopley, Head of Academy
“We see the gradual progression they are making while at Bedford when they come back to Saints for training – it’s not an overnight development.
“But playing in that second tier, and having [Saints Academy Coach] Jake Sharp in the environment too, is hugely beneficial and we’ve seen several lads do well at Goldington Road and come back to get game time with Saints as a result.
“Bedford have assembled a really competitive squad for this season with some experienced players, so our guys will have a challenging season competing with them, but it’s a vital learning experience too.”
Prowse was one of only five players to feature in every Championship game for Bedford last term, while Newman, Tupai, Iyogun, Litchfield and Gillespie all also earned Premiership appearances for Saints off the back of their exploits in a Blues jersey.
Bedford’s Director of Rugby, Mike Rayer, added: “It’s great to see some familiar faces back and also to see a few new faces as well. We’re excited by the blend which we can hopefully get into our matchday squads next season.
“Northampton Saints have been producing great Academy players through their development pathway in the last few seasons, and hopefully the partnership will continue to flourish.”