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Five young Saints have re-signed with the Club
Northampton Saints ©
Five young Saints have re-signed with the Club
Northampton Saints ©

Saints re-sign five Senior Academy prospects

Northampton Saints can today announce that five Senior Academy players have penned deals to remain at the Club – with Emeka Atuanya, Ewan Baker, Jake Garside, Ed Prowse and Craig Wright all signing on again for the 2024/25 season.

The group have made 26 appearances in Black, Green and Gold between them to date, and will stay at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens after impressing in both a Saints and Bedford Blues shirt this season.

With a host of Gallagher Premiership, Premiership Rugby Cup and Championship appearances amongst them, as well as England Under-18s and Under-20s caps, the quintet brings the number of Saints re-signings to 20 for the 2023/24 season.

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A dominant, physical presence at 6’ 7”, lock Atuanya first signed on with Northampton’s Senior Academy ahead of the 2021/22 season. He was given his maiden run out later that term in the Mobbs Memorial Match against the British Army, before making his full Saints debut against Saracens in October 2022.

The former Northampton School for Boys and Northampton Old Scouts forward has already earned international honours, having represented England at Under-18 level; and Saints’ Director of Rugby Phil Dowson is looking forward to seeing the 21-year-old kick on next season.

“Emeka is a player we wanted to keep because of the speed at which he has improved,” said Dowson. “He’s had a great impact at Bedford Blues, particularly towards the back end of last season and this year.

“He’s looked comfortable and is playing at a high level in the Championship, building his reputation at Bedford, and in pre-season last summer he was really competing hard and enjoying getting stuck in with our group.

“His training level this season has also been superb, which is why we nominated him for the Coaches’ Player of the Season Award this year. He’s turned up week in, week out and pushed hard to improve and drive the rest of the team forward.

“Unfortunately, he picked up a shoulder injury with Bedford recently, but we’re looking forward to seeing how Emeka transitions and progresses, and we’ve got high hopes that he’ll get straight back into playing regularly when he returns from this injury.”

Emeka Atuanya

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Formerly of Lawrence Sheriff School and Daventry RFC, Baker transitioned to fullback in Saints’ Under-18s set-up having played much of his junior rugby at fly-half.

He earned himself a scholarship at Stowe School, but while his final season in the Club’s Junior Academy was very impressive, he missed the Academy League final through injury. Saints had seen enough of the fullback to offer Baker his first professional contract, with the youngster joining Saints’ ranks at the start of this season.

Earlier this term, 19-year-old Baker made his debut in Black, Gold and Green in the Premiership Rugby Cup season opener at Ealing Trailfinders, and will be looking to add to that appearance as he signs on for more at Saints.

“Ewan is a great person to have in the environment, can play at centre or fullback, and he’s got a fantastic skill-set too,” Dowson said of the young fullback.

“We’re hoping to see him spend some more time with Bedford next year. Physically, he’s put some size on and got a lot stronger to cope with the demands of professional rugby, and he doesn’t seem to be fazed by anything.

“He gets stuck in, has some good touches, and trains hard – so he’s someone we’ve got really high hopes for.”

Ewan Baker

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Scrum-half Garside hails from the Norfolk coastline and previously represented Norwich School and Wymondham RFC, having also joined the Saints Academy set-up initially at Under-14s level before signing on with the Senior Academy ahead of the 2021/22 season.

The 21-year-old made his debut in Black, Green and Gold in the Premiership Rugby Cup in 2022, marking the occasion with a sharply-taken try against Newcastle Falcons. Garside’s Premiership debut would come the following season as he came off the bench against Gloucester Rugby at the Gardens.

On Garside, Dowson said: “Jake has been in and out of the first team all year, starting in the Cup matches and then being involved a bit more in the Premiership.

“He’s got game-changing ability with his speed and tenacity – and he’s one of those players like Cobus Reinach who can play scrum-half and on the wing, which is incredibly valuable for the squad.

“He’s a real scrapper and always gets stuck into training and matches. Even though he’s probably always one of the smaller guys on the pitch, he’s one of the most aggressive, and he’s lightning fast.

“We’re excited to see what he can do next year in terms of pushing on.”

Jake Garside

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Tighthead prop Prowse’s route into Saints’ squad was an unconventional one, having initially been released from Northampton’s Academy system in 2019. The 23-year-old worked his way back into contention though and impressed enough to be offered his first full-time contract in 2020.

Playing on loan at Kettering RFC and Loughborough University, as well as performing well for Northampton Wanderers in that first term, the young prop then went to Bedford as part of Saints’ strategic partnership with the Championship side.

Two impressive seasons in a Blues shirt were rewarded with a senior Saints debut against Saracens in the Premiership Rugby Cup in 2022, before a maiden Gallagher Premiership appearance followed in the final regular-season match of the 2022/23 campaign.

“Ed’s been a long-term development project for us, to transition him into the front row where he’s not always played,” said Dowson.

“He’s learning how to lock a scrum down and doing all those things a tighthead has to do, but he’s also an incredible player in the loose and has been unbelievable for Bedford in that area.

“He hits hard in defence, carries hard with ball in hand, played in the Premiership last year at Newcastle and was pinging passes around everywhere.

“So, he’s still learning the ropes at scrum-time but he’s making massive improvements there, and spending a lot of time in the gym to add strength. It’s been a big year of improvement for Ed and if that trajectory continues, he’s going to be a cracking player.”

Ed Prowse

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Wright, 20, was a part of the Club’s Under-18s side which reached the final of the Premiership Rugby Academy League during the 2021/22 campaign, and put pen to paper on his first professional contract at the end of that season.

Co-captain at Felstead School, Wright also played his junior club rugby for Braintree RFC and most recently earned international honours with England Under-20s, starting three clashes in the Under-20s Six Nations as England claimed the 2024 title.

The hooker’s only appearance in Black, Green and Gold to date came in the season opener at Ealing Trailfinders this term, and Dowson is looking forward to seeing Wright’s progress in the season to come.

He said: “Craig had a brilliant campaign with England Under-20s this year. He’s a really gifted player both technically and physically; fast, powerful, an exceptional thrower – all the metrics you could want from a hooker.

“His try from 60 yards out against South Africa showed off his athleticism, so that coupled with his skill-set means his ceiling is really, really high.

“He’s great fun within the group and Sam Matavesi has started to mentor him as well, so we’ve got a lot to work with in Craig and I’m sure he’ll kick on again next season.”

Craig Wright
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