Northampton Saints’ under-18 side are set for their first clash of 2021 on Saturday, travelling down to north London to face Saracens at the StoneX Stadium.
Academy coaches Mark Hopley, Will Parkin and James Craig have named a young side for the under-18s’ first fixture in 13 months, with only six players at the top of the age group across the squad of 31.
Three of Northampton’s Senior Academy signings for 2021/22 – Emeka Atuanya, Tom Lockett, and Matty Arden – miss out through injury, but two more newly-contracted players in Jake Garside and Geordie Irvine both start for Saints.
Two XVs have been named which will be swapped over at half-time, with 24 under-17 players making their debuts at this level for the Club, plus centre George Patten who featured last year as an under-16.
Under-16 fly-half Ewan Baker is the youngest in the squad, who will look to hit the ground running with further friendlies against Harlequins, London Irish and Yorkshire.
“We’re really excited for our young players to have an opportunity to play, having worked extremely hard over last 13 months to develop themselves in difficult circumstances,” said Parkin.
“It’s a great chance for our under-18 players to finish off their last month with the Junior Academy with four big occasions, and we’re especially privileged this year to be playing our two home matches on the Franklin’s Gardens main pitch.”Will Parkin, Academy Coach
“Meanwhile, our under-17 players should be looking to take this opportunity with both hands and learn as much as they can ahead of next season. We saw the likes of Emeka Atuanya, Matty Arden, Jake Garside and Geordie Irvine play regularly last year which was vital for their development.”
Craig added: “We’re looking for our players to bring loads of energy, hard work, and to play with ambition.
“A huge amount of thanks must go to Mark Hopley and [Lead Academy Physiotherapist] Calvin Kernohan, who have both been instrumental behind the scenes in getting the matches to go ahead with all the current restrictions in place.
“We hope all the parents, schools and clubs who have had a part to play in the development of this group of players will enjoy seeing the boys pull on the Saints jersey this weekend, and thank them too, as ever, for their unwavering support.”