Saints set to tap into Suffolk talent

THE nationally renowned academy of top flight rugby union side Northampton Saints has set-up a big presence in Suffolk at schoolboy level in order to tap into the plethora of talent coming out of the county.

Stuart Watson

THE nationally renowned academy of top flight rugby union side Northampton Saints has set-up a big presence in Suffolk at schoolboy level in order to tap into the plethora of talent coming out of the county.

The Saints academy was first established on a full-time basis in 1997 and ever since then it has long been considered a blue-print for success following its ability to consistently produce players capable of playing professional rugby.

Products of the system have included World Cup winners Steve Thompson and Ben Cohen, while Northampton won the National Division One title last term with a squad including no less than 12 players produced by their academy.

And it is now the club's belief that future generations of first teamers are to be found around 100 miles away in Suffolk.

Simon Sinclair, who is based in Suffolk due to his role as Director of Sport at Stowmarket-based school Great Finborough, is currently in charge of the Elite Player Development Group (EPDG) at the Saints.

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And so impressed is he with the standard of player emerging from his home county that he has set up the weekly training sessions for the EPDG in both Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds.

There are a host of players from Suffolk in the group, which runs from Under-13 to Under-16 level, including Alexander Shea-Simonds and Tom Dufficy from Orwell Park School and Mo Osman and George Woodley from Ipswich School.

In addition, there are plenty of Colchester Rugby Club players, including the talented Tom Crozier, involved.

Sinclair said: “The amount of quality coming through in this area at the moment is incredible. The young players are improving all the time.

“That's testament to the work that local clubs have done with their junior sections in recent years. Bury's mini section is buzzing, Colchester get about 60 youngsters to every session, while Ipswich and Stowmarket are beginning to reap the dividends of their work with junior players.

“Northampton keep bringing their academy players through and from my perspective that is great.

“We don't try to do anything too competitive with the EPDG players, we are just honing their core skills and making sure they can do the basics with confidence and under a little bit of pressure.”

Once the EPDG players reach 16, it is then up to Northampton Saints whether to take them through to the Junior Academy and eventually the Senior Academy, the latter training alongside the first team.

Those that impress the most are given the chance to play for Northampton's reserve side, the Wanderers, while many often get blooded in the first team through the pre-season Sevens tournament.

Two members of the Senior Academy, Will Harries and Joe Gray, have already played for the Saints this season and several more played in the pre-season friendly against Samoa.

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