Northampton Saints will look to claim the Premiership Rugby U18 Academy League title this weekend, as Will Parkin’s side faces London Irish in the competition’s Final on Sunday evening.
The boys in Black, Green and Gold topped the Northern Conference standings by a single point ahead of Leicester Tigers at the end of the league campaign, also scoring the most tries and points in the competition along the way.
A 31-10 win up at Newcastle Falcons last weekend sealed Saints’ progress to their second straight final – with two tries each for Lucas Nisbett-Hadaway and Harry Simpson, as well as Archie McParland’s score.
Northampton did not have everything their own way up at Kingston Park, and Parkin believes that test under pressure will stand the team in good stead with silverware on the line this coming weekend.
“It was great to get a result in Newcastle, and the reward for the boys to play in the Final this weekend, after all the work they have put in over the last six months,” he said.
“With a place in the Final on the line, the pressure was on the boys to perform, but that’s excellent for their development and they coped really well. We were poor in the first half – some of that could have been down to the long journey and strange kick-off time to what we are used to – but they learnt a lot from the experience.
“We wanted to be the top try-scoring team in the competition, and to get another five tries last weekend meant the boys have achieved that aim. I’m really proud of them for that, and of the nine Under-17 players that were on the pitch at the full-time whistle – it was fantastic for them to get exposure at this level.”
After falling at the final hurdle last term, with a narrow defeat to Bristol Bears in the 2021/22 Premiership Rugby U18 Academy League final, this year London Irish stand in Saints’ way of silverware.
Parkin makes two changes to his side for the clash at StoneX Stadium on Sunday, which kicks off at 7pm and will be available to watch live HERE via YouTube.
Jacob Willmott replaces the injured Ewan Baker, prompting a reshuffle in the back three with England age-group international Toby Cousins moving to fullback, meanwhile Mart Van Der Veen also comes into the starting line-up with Henri Burditt shifting forwards into the engine room.
Parkin said: “Finals Day offers us the chance to hopefully go one better than last year. Some of the same boys will be involved in the game again this time, and no doubt they will be fully focussed on finishing this year on the other side of the result.
“Nothing changes for us; we still want to focus on the performance, and also be the team that scores the most tries and gets the ball back the most. If we can continue to perform how we have been, and do well in those areas, it should put us in a good place.”Will Parkin, Academy Coach
“Once again, my special thanks must go to the parents for all their support over the season so far – especially the long trip up to Newcastle last week. We’ll all be trying to end on a high note for them as well.”
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS U18 vs LONDON IRISH U18
Premiership Rugby U18 Academy League Final
Sunday 18 February 2023
15 Toby Cousins
14 Jacob Willmott
13 Harry Simpson
12 Ollie Saddleton
11 Ben Radnor
10 Rory Hollis
9 Archie McParland
1 Lucas Nisbett-Hadaway
2 Sol Moody
3 Will Lamprell
4 Aiden Kabi
5 Henri Burditt
6 Mart Van Der Veen
7 Henry Pollock (c)
8 Ollie Holliday
16 Robert Gaffan
17 Ollie Scola
18 Tom Dye
19 Ashton Webb
20 Alfie Hoyles
21 Billy Pasco
22 Max Allman-Ward
23 Ben Agbenu