Northampton have announced the signing of former All Blacks prop Ben Franks, who will join the Premiership club ahead of next season.
The 33-year-old will arrive at Franklin’s Gardens from fellow Premiership side London Irish, having also represented the Crusaders and Hurricanes back in his native New Zealand.
Franks won the Rugby World Cup in 2015 with the All Blacks – defeating Australia in the final at Twickenham – the same year he reached the Super Rugby final with the Hurricanes under Saints’ new director of rugby, Chris Boyd.
He was also in the New Zealand set-up when they won the 2011 World Cup, and having enjoyed the trials of English rugby for three seasons now, Franks is relishing a new challenge in Northampton.
“I’m delighted to be joining Saints at such an exciting junction for the club,” he said.
“Linking up with Chris Boyd once again was of course a big factor in this decision; I remember him as a gifted and hardworking coach, and I know he will be desperate to make a fast start in England as he did in Wellington with the Hurricanes.
“I still feel like I have a lot to offer in the Aviva Premiership, and having experienced the Franklin’s Gardens atmosphere first-hand, I can’t wait to run out for Northampton every week.
“Seeing the facilities at the club and looking at some of the quality players that have been brought in for next season, the ambition of Saints is clear, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Franks notched up 47 caps in an impressive seven-year international career for New Zealand, as well as twice winning the Super Rugby championship with the Crusaders in 2006 and 2008.
The Melbourne-born prop can operate on either side of the scrum, but specialises at tighthead, and has formed a fierce reputation as a set-piece operator – also turning out for the Barbarians three times.
Before reaching first-class rugby, he played for the New Zealand U19 and U21 sides, and CEO Mark Darbon admits securing the signature of a player with Franks’ experience is a big positive for Saints.
He said: “We are absolutely delighted Ben has decided to join Saints from next season. He is a versatile player with a proven ability at the very highest level, and I’m also certain that some of our younger props can learn a vast amount from him.”