Northampton Saints will aim to bring the local rugby community together again in 2020 when the men in Black, Green and Gold lock horns with London Irish on home soil.
The Exiles visit Franklin’s Gardens on Friday 24 January (kick-off 7.45pm) in round nine of the Gallagher Premiership, and Saints will be taking the spirit of rugby clubs throughout the region with them onto the hallowed turf.
The hosts will replace their usual match socks with those from 23 clubs across Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire and Suffolk – creating an explosion of colour across the Gardens after a successful first trial of the initiative during last season’s East Midlands derby match at Twickenham.
The 23 clubs involved will also send a member of their minis or junior section onto the pitch as team mascots when the sides take to the field.
Thousands of children from local clubs take part in matchday festivals at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday mornings throughout the rugby season, and Saints’ head of community, Connor Fleming, is delighted that Chris Boyd's side will be representing so many of them during the crucial clash against London Irish.
“We’re incredibly proud of the relationship Saints have with the local community."Connor Fleming, Head of Community
“After successfully running an initial club socks initiative during the derby last season, we’re thrilled to be able to do it again in 2020 and to have so many clubs on board already,” Fleming said.
“The idea behind the scheme initially was to link our professional players to the clubs that were so important in their development. This year we will be connecting as many of the local grassroots clubs as we can to the matchday 23, with each player pulling on the socks of a local club.
“We’re incredibly proud of the relationship Saints have with the local community, and all of the teams involved in the match have also been represented in our matchday festivals throughout the 2019-20 season, from Under-8s all the way up to Under-16s level.”
To decide which players wear which club’s socks, a draw will take place at Franklin’s Gardens after the side have completed their Captain’s Run ahead of the match.