Northampton Saints can today confirm the signing of Ipswich-born flanker Karl Wilkins from AS Béziers Hérault.
The 24-year-old has made over 50 appearances for the French ProD2 side since arriving from ASM Clermont Auvergne in 2016.
Experienced at lock as well as in the back row, Wilkins initially left for France aged 18, joining Montferrand from Saints’ Academy system where he was part of the Northampton squad that won the Premiership’s Under-18 Academy League in the 2013/14 season – alongside the likes of Harry Mallinder, George Furbank, Lewis Ludlam, Rory Hutchinson and James Fish.
The 6’4”, 112kg forward will return to Franklin’s Gardens ahead of the start of the 2021/22 season, and Wilkins is relishing the prospect of linking up with old friends at his boyhood Club.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be returning home and to get my opportunity with Northampton,” he said.
“I grew up playing at Franklin’s Gardens, so I understand the culture and tradition of the Club, the special atmosphere inside the stadium on matchday, and how important Saints are to the people of the Town.
“It’s been fantastic to see some of the lads I played alongside in the Academy take their opportunities and really kick on in recent years – I hope when I return to the Club, I can do the same and make more memories with them.”Karl Wilkins
“The squad is already filled with talent and I can’t wait to arrive and try to develop further as a player under a really impressive group of coaches.”
Saints signed No.8 Shaun Adendorff from ProD2’s Aurillac last summer, and Director of Rugby Chris Boyd is confident Wilkins could prove to be another hidden gem when given an opportunity in the top-flight of English rugby.
He said: “Karl fits our recruitment model of young, high-potential and English perfectly.
“We want to continue to build a squad with a backbone of local players, and while Karl has taken the road less travelled to get here, he is desperate to pull on a Black, Green and Gold jersey again.
“He is someone who can play both lock and in the back row, so Karl’s a versatile player and a great fit for our pack. I’m looking forward to seeing how far he can go within our set-up here at Franklin’s Gardens.”
Karl Wilkins (back row, sixth from the left) was part of Saints’ U18 side that won the Academy League in 2013/14 alongside Harry Mallinder, George Furbank, Lewis Ludlam, Rory Hutchinson and James Fish.