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Silverware up for grabs for Saints Under-18s

Just four hours after Saints’ kick-off at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday, Northampton will be putting the finishing touches on their preparations for the Premiership Rugby Under-18s League Final – with Academy coach Will Parkin naming an unchanged starting XV for the trophy clash.

After a stellar season saw Saints top the Northern Conference, Northampton’s youngsters go in search for silverware at Sixways Stadium – rounding off Finals Day against Bristol Bears on Sunday (27 February, kick-off: 5.30pm).

Northampton claimed four out of six wins in the regular league matches, with Saints’ clash against unbeaten Bristol marking Northampton’s first appearance in the Under-18s Final since 2015.

And now, with silverware up for grabs, Parkin insists his side are focused on putting together another strong performance rather than worrying about lifting the trophy.

“I’m really excited for the boys to have reached the Premiership Final,” Parkin said. “It’s a great reward for the hard work they’ve put in not only this year but for some of them since they first joined our pathway at Under-13 in the DPP (Developing Player Programme). 

“For me, Sunday isn’t about the winning; it’s an opportunity for these boys to learn and experience what its like to play in big games under pressure.”

Academy coach, Will Parkin

“As I’ve mentioned a few times across the season, the important thing is that we give these lads an opportunity to leave the Under-18 pathway a better player. 

“I feel like the success of the Academy should be reviewed on how many of our players go on to play senior rugby for Northampton Saints and hopefully international sides too.”

Unbeaten Bristol await Parkin’s side at Sixways, with the West Country outfit proving tough opposition – winning all of their six regular season clashes by at least a score in the Southern Conference. 

And while the prospect of a first trophy in seven years excites Parkin, the Academy coach knows how big of a challenge his young Saints have ahead of them this Sunday. 

He added: “It would obviously be fantastic for the team to finish their Under-18 season with some silverware, but we know it will be a bit challenge against an unbeaten Bristol side. We’re looking forward to continuing where we left off over the previous three weeks.

“The improvements we made in the last two games were really good to see; we spoke a lot after our losses against Sale and Worcester about how disappointed we were and where we wanted to be in that last match against Newcastle, so it was pleasing to see what we spoke about being put into practice in that match. 

“We also talked a lot over the season about wanting to reach the Final and putting in the performances that would get us there; I thought our skipper George Patten, along with guys like Craig Wright, Nick Tarr and Archie Kean, have been brilliant this season in driving the standards in training as well as on the pitch, so to see the lads achieve their goal of getting to the Final is brilliant. 

“It’s also been fantastic to see some of our Under-17s really stepping up this year, players like Henry Pollock, Archie McParland, Ewan Baker and Toby Cousins have all had a lot of game time that will hopefully put them in a good position going into next season, and hopefully they’ll have all this to come again next year too. 

“Sunday’s match will be some of the lads’ final games in a Saints shirt, it’s obviously a sad time of year to see some of the guys go but I’m really looking forward seeing them perform in the Final – hopefully we can end the season with a bang.”

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS U18s vs BRISTOL BEARS U18s
Premiership Rugby Under-18 Academy League Final
Sunday 27 February, 2022
Sixways Stadium
Kick-off: 5.30pm

15 Jody Devine
14 Ethan Thorne
13 Toby Cousins
12 Archie Kean
11 Frankie Sleightholme
10 Tommy Taylor
9 Harry Hall

1 Callum Smyth
2 Craig Wright
3 Nick Tarr
4 Carn Richards-Farr
5 George Lavender
7 Henry Pollock
8 George Patten (capt)

Replacements:
16 Aston Gradwick-Light
17 Sam Ferrari
18 Lucas Nisbett-Hadaway
19 James Bennett
20 Levi Wilson
21 Archie McParland
22 Toby Thame
23 Ewan Baker

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