Planet Rugby

Northampton's 'cult hero' retires

14th May 2014 15:02

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Academy move: Paul Diggin

Northampton Saints have announced that Paul Diggin is retiring from top flight rugby at the end of the current season.

Diggin has become a cult hero on the terraces at Franklin's Gardens for his wholehearted commitment to the cause of his home-town club.

The 29-year-old came up through the town's BBOB club before joining the Saints Academy system in his teens.

The first of his 148 first team appearances came in the home Premiership win over Sale Sharks in February 2004, and he played in the 2011 Heineken Cup final, two LV= Cup finals, Amlin Challenge Cup final and National Trophy final.

Diggin's strike rate throughout his career in black, green and gold was also impressive, the winger crossing the whitewash 62 times in all. He is the only Saint to score four tries in one individual Heineken Cup match - against Edinburgh at home in January 2011 - which helped him become the top try scorer in that year's competition.

At the start of this season Diggin joined the club's Academy coaching staff, helping bring through the next generation of Saints. His testimonial year has also seen him play against the British Army in the Mobbs Memorial Match, help the Wanderers to the Aviva 'A' League final and play for Cambridge.

But it is in coaching where Diggin says that he sees his future, which is why he is hanging up his boots.

"I could not have asked for more from my playing career," said Diggin.

"I've played in a Heineken Cup final, helped my team win at Twickenham and have collected a number of winners' medals.

"What has meant more to me is that this has all come at my home-town club. I grew up wanting to play for the Saints and to pull on the black, green and gold and run out in front of the fans at Franklin's Gardens has been a dream come true.

"The support I've had from the terraces has been superb throughout my career and I'd like to thank all the Saints supporters for their backing.

"But time has to move on and I'm delighted to be a part of the Academy coaching team, working with Mark Hopley, Dusty Hare and the rest of the coaches and support staff to bring through our next generation of players. We've got some exciting talent coming through, and hopefully I can help them develop as players and know what it means to play for the Saints.

"I'd like to thank Jim Mallinder and Dusty Hare for the opportunity."

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that Diggin has given his all for the first team throughout his time at Franklin's Gardens.

"Paul has always given 100 percent regardless of whether he has been playing in the first team, Wanderers or Sevens teams," said Mallinder.

"Every squad needs home-grown players, especially at a club like Northampton, and Paul knows exactly what the club means to himself and to the supporters in the stands.

"He has a lot of experience and knowledge that he can pass on as an Academy coach, and I'm delighted that he is staying at the club in that capacity."

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