Northampton Saints has announced new contracts with seven of the club’s players, including two England internationals.
Leading the way is club captain Dylan Hartley. The 28-year-old is the longest-serving player at Franklin’s Gardens joining the club in 2005. He was named club captain in 2009, and as well as amassing 198 first team appearances he has lifted the Aviva Premiership trophy and skippered the Saints to the 2011 Heineken Cup final. He is also the most capped player in the current England squad, having played 61 times in the white shirt.
Courtney Lawes has also put pen to paper on a new deal. The 25-year-old home-grown lock made his Saints debut in October 2007, but sprang to prominence with man of the match performances in the European Challenge Cup and Heineken Cup in 2008 and 2009. A Junior World Championship finalist in 2009, Lawes made his full international debut in that year’s Autumn Internationals and has gone to play 36 times for England and 148 times for the Saints, winning plenty of plaudits for his athleticism and effective play in the process.
Over the past few years Calum Clark has become one of the most effective and consistent back rowers anywhere in the Aviva Premiership. The Saints’ Player of the Month in October 2014, Clark (25) was named the club’s Young Player of the Season in his first year at Franklin’s Gardens. A former England Under-20 captain in the Junior World Championship final, Clark skippered England Saxons in 2014 and this Autumn was called into England’s training squad. He has played 119 times for the Saints.
Alex Waller’s new contract comes at the end of a dream year for the 24-year-old prop. Not only did he score the winning try in the Aviva Premiership final, but he also made his first ever national representative appearance, playing for England Saxons against Irish Wolfhounds and Scotland ‘A’. This was followed by a place on the plane to New Zealand as part of England’s touring squad, for whom he impressed while playing against the Crusaders. Kettering born, Waller is a graduate of the Saints Academy system and has played 139 times in black, green and gold.
Waller’s younger brother, Ethan, continues his place among the Saints’ propping corps with his own new deal. The 22-year-old’s progress over the past two years reflects the benefits of the dual registration system, with Waller playing firstly for Coventry and then Moseley while learning his trade in the lower leagues. His first team debut came in November 2010, and so far he has amassed 42 first team appearances, a man of the match award in the European Challenge Cup quarter final win at Sale Sharks and the Saints’ Young Player of the Season award in 2014.
James Craig is another young forward to pen a new agreement. The 26-year-old lock forward has played 36 times for the Saints so far in his career, after moving to the Saints in 2011, and has played in three LV= Cup finals and stood out with his performances in the knockout stages of the 2013/14 European Challenge Cup-winning campaign.
Gareth Denman is in his second season at Franklin’s Gardens. The 24-year-old cut his propping teeth in the Championship with Leeds and Rotherham before moving down the M1 to the East Midlands, and has earned plenty of plaudits – not to mention a couple of winners’ medals, too – for his performances thus far in his 37 appearances.
Director of rugby Jim Mallinder said that he was delighted that all seven players had put pen to paper.
“We have a group that has shown time and again that they have the ability to compete at the highest level of club rugby, and retaining players is very important to us,” he said. “The seven forwards that we have announced today are all good players already, but they still have the ability to improve and we are looking forward to seeing them develop further at Franklin’s Gardens.”