Academy coaches Will Parkin and James Craig have named the line-up for the Northampton Saints U18 side which will take on Leicester Tigers on Saturday.
A brand-new season of Premiership Rugby U18 league action gets underway this weekend; first Saints go toe-to-toe with their East Midlands rivals before travelling to Yorkshire Carnegie just before Christmas.
Early in the new year Northampton’s starlets will take on Sale Sharks, Worcester Warriors and Wasps – all at Franklin’s Gardens – before rounding off the league campaign away at Newcastle Falcons in early February.
“The lads will be most excited about the opportunity to play their first match together this season and enjoying the experience of pulling on a Saints shirt.”James Craig, DPP Manager
Parkin and Craig will lead the U18s set-up this term and while they will be hoping to see their side qualify for finals day on Sunday 16 February, the duo insists that long-term development is the focus for the side ahead of whatever the scoreboard might read.
“This league is all about giving the lads exposure to playing in competitive fixtures, and it allows the coaches to see the boys pitting themselves against the other top players in the country,” said Parkin.
“We are hoping to see some impact on the pitch from the work we’ve done in preseason around developing their skillset and making good decisions in game situations.
“We were able to expose a number of U17 players to this level last season, so a lot of the guys this year have a good idea about what the standard is like at this level, but equally we’ll be encouraging plenty of the younger guys to enhance their development as well.
“There is the opportunity of course for a lot of these guys to earn senior contracts and make their next step towards professional rugby, but mainly it’s all about personal development – whether they go on towards senior rugby or to university elsewhere.”
Craig, who retired from professional rugby at the end of the 2018-19 season, added: “Tigers have been extremely competitive over the last couple of years in the Academy league if you look at their results, and we’re sure that will be the same this year, but our focus is very much on the development of our guys – we’re looking to see the guys go out and move the ball in a similar way to the Saints first team.
“There is loads of competitiveness within our group, and this being an East Midlands derby certainly adds another level to that, but the lads will be most excited about the opportunity to play their first match together this season and enjoying the experience of pulling on a Saints shirt while thinking about their long-term development.”
LEICESTER TIGERS U18 vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS U18
Premiership Rugby U18 League, Round One
Saturday 14 December 2019
Oval Park, Leicester
1 Jarno Longaretti
2 Callum Burns (c)
3 Josh Cilia
4 Ed Clayton
5 Dan Makepeace
6 Tom Ball
7 James Chalk
8 Ethan Wright