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Northampton confirm coaching shake up

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Dowson and Vesty to step up at Saints as Boyd moves to advisory role

Northampton Saints coaches Phil Dowson and Sam Vesty will move into senior management roles at the end of the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season following confirmation that Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd, will return to New Zealand and take up a new advisory role with the Club.

Dowson, who enjoyed a six-year playing career at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens prior to his transition into coaching, will be appointed Director of Rugby having coached Saints’ forwards since the 2018/19 season.

Meanwhile Vesty, who joined at the start of Boyd’s tenure to run Saints’ attack, will become the Club’s Head Coach.

The change forms part of a long-term succession plan set up when Boyd first arrived in Northampton, which aimed to develop a coaching team capable of assuming overall responsibility of the Club’s playing department.

In his new advisory role, Boyd will work remotely from New Zealand but will also visit Northampton during the season, aiming to provide strategic counsel to a coaching group which will be led by Dowson.

Ian Vass and Matt Ferguson will continue in their coaching roles, responsible for Saints’ defence and scrum respectively. Meanwhile former lock James Craig – who made 73 appearances in Black, Green and Gold prior to his retirement from playing in 2019 – also transitions from the Club’s Academy programme into a new first-team coaching position, initially focused on looking after Saints’ line-out.

“I have absolutely loved my time in Northampton, but it’s time to return home,” said Boyd.

“Since our arrival in 2018, Linda and I have fallen in love with the Club, the supporters and the county – Saints will always have a special place in our hearts.”

Chris Boyd

“But the pull of family is too great to stay in Northampton beyond the end of this season. And while the thought of being closer to our children and grandchildren is hugely exciting, it is with heavy hearts that we leave the Club.  

“Phil and Sam are very talented coaches and thoroughly deserve their forthcoming appointments. Over the last three years, they have proved they have what it takes to lead a successful rugby club at this level; I have no doubt they are ready to make the step up.

“They will be well supported by Ian, Matt and James, who all have bright futures ahead of them as coaches, and I will obviously still be contributing in my new role too.

“Although I’ll be sad to leave, my job this season is far from finished. I can promise our supporters that we are all more determined than ever to help the Club achieve its potential for the remainder of the season.”

Boyd joined Saints from Super Rugby’s Hurricanes ahead of the 2018/19 season. The Kiwi coach won the Premiership Rugby Cup – Northampton’s first silverware for five years – and finished fourth in the Gallagher Premiership in his first season, but Saints were defeated in their semi-final clash.

The men in Black, Green and Gold then reached the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup under Boyd the following season, going down to eventual champions Exeter Chiefs, before ending the 2020/21 Premiership campaign one place outside of the play-offs in fifth.

Boyd’s tenure at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens has also seen a new generation of Saints make the transition from the Club’s Academy to senior rugby. An impressive 25 Academy players have made their debuts under Boyd, with Northampton’s senior squad now boasting an average age of just 24 with 67% (39/58) of players home-grown.

Ten Academy graduates have received their first international call-ups with Boyd at the helm, with Lewis LudlamGeorge FurbankAlex Mitchell and Rory Hutchinson all making their debuts at Test level.

“We completely understand Chris’ reasons for deciding to go back to New Zealand – family must always come first,” said Mark Darbon, Chief Executive at Northampton Saints.

“However, we always knew this time would come and have planned and rehearsed accordingly. For instance, earlier this summer when Chris took an extended break in New Zealand, Phil and Sam took sole charge of pre-season.

“From the moment we first spoke to Chris about joining Northampton Saints, we worked with him to build a high-potential group of coaches. Over the past three years, that group have developed and grown, and we are excited for what they can achieve together.”

Mark Darbon, Northampton Saints Chief Executive

“While we will miss having Chris around the Gardens, we are very pleased that he will maintain a relationship with the Club in an advisory role, supporting the further development of our coaching group and helping us monitor the global player market.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Chris and Linda for everything they have done for Saints so far. It has been a pleasure working with Chris in his current role, and I have no doubt that the Club will continue to benefit from his contributions moving forwards.”

Saints Chairman John White added: “It’s been fantastic to work with Chris over the past four years; he transitions into his new role with the Club in great shape for the future, and I am very grateful for his efforts to date. We look forward to what will hopefully be a successful second half of this season, before Phil and Sam step into their new roles to take the Club forward.”

Phil Dowson made 186 appearances in Black, Green and Gold as a player in just six seasons at the Club, helping Saints claim the Premiership and European Challenge Cup titles in 2014, the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2010, and reach the Heineken Champions Cup final in 2011. He returned to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens as an assistant coach in 2017, before becoming forwards coach a year later upon Boyd’s arrival at the Club.

His 262 appearances in the Premiership is the third-highest tally in the competition’s history, and more than any active player, while Dowson was also capped seven times by England.

The 40-year-old said: “I am extremely proud and humbled to be stepping into the Director of Rugby role at Northampton Saints, a Club I have loved from the moment I first ran onto the pitch at Franklin’s Gardens 12 years ago.

“There is still plenty of growth left in this group of players and, alongside Sam and the entire coaching department, we will work tirelessly to deliver silverware for the Club and our supporters – whose passion and commitment to the team is second to none.

“On a personal note, I would like to thank Chris for everything he has done for me as a coach; I have learnt an enormous amount from him, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities he has given me. It is of course sad to see him return to New Zealand, but I’m delighted we will be able to continue to work together within this new coaching structure.”

Premiership

Steve Diamond to become Director of Rugby at Worcester Warriors

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Steve Diamond will become Warriors Director of Rugby from the end of this season on a two-year contract.

Diamond was appointed Lead Rugby Consultant in November and he will continue in that capacity for the remainder of this season before succeeding Alan Solomons as Director of Rugby when Solomons retires from coaching at the end of June.

Diamond will take charge of the rugby programme immediately with Solomons providing support as needed.

“Having taken the time to work with Steve in his role as a Lead Rugby Consultant it was the logical decision to offer him the role as Director of Rugby for the next two seasons,” said Warriors co-owners Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham.

“Steve is an experienced and proven Director of Rugby with the qualities needed to take the club to the next level and achieve our ambitions of competing at the top end of the Premiership.

“We have invested a great deal into ensuring we have all the right ingredients for the club to reach its full potential.

“We have unwavering confidence in the strength of the players and the ability of the club to achieve that goal. We will continue to do everything we can to achieve it.

“Alan has built an excellent platform for Steve to take things to the next level and achieve the full potential this club has to offer.

“Alan arrived in a consultancy role four years ago and his recruitment philosophy to develop and invest in a core of home-grown Worcester players and supplement them with x-factor talent has led to the development and retention of an exciting group of young players with more now coming through behind them in the academy.”

In addition to Diamond succeeding Solomons, Warriors can confirm that Head Coach Jonathan Thomas has departed the club with immediate effect.

“Jonathan has given his all to the club. We appreciate everything he’s done in his time at Warriors both as a player and a coach and we wish him all the very best in his future ventures,” said Goldring and Whittingham.

Diamond, who played more than 350 games for Sale in a career that spanned the amateur and professional eras, has a proven track record as a coach with Sale, Saracens and the Russia national team.

He re-joined Sale in 2011, initially as Director of Sport before being appointed Director of Rugby the following year.

Sale won the Premiership Rugby Cup in 2019/20, Diamond’s last full season in charge at the AJ Bell Stadium and they also qualified for the Heineken Champions Cup five times.

Diamond is now looking forward to taking charge at Sixways and helping Warriors to become similarly competitive.

“We have a really exciting challenge in front of us and it’s one that I am relishing,” Diamond said.

“We have enthusiastic owners who have ambitions for the club to be established in the top six of the Gallagher Premiership and playing in the Heineken Champions Cup.

“Clearly we are not where we would like to be at the moment as a club. To achieve our ambitions, our results need to improve and changes need to be made. A key part of my role will be the recruitment of players and staff.

“Worcester is a hotbed of rugby with a fantastic core group of supporters. We want to grow that supporter base and give the city, county and region a successful and sustainable Premiership club that everyone can be proud of.”

Images & Content from Worcester Warriors

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Premiership

Bath loan English International star from Rivals

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Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Nathan Hughes will join Bath Rugby on a loan agreement with immediate effect.

The No. 8 makes the switch to the Recreation Ground on a short-term deal, although Bears have a call-back option if required.

Director of Rugby Pat Lam said: “It’s important for Nate to get some regular quality game-time at this stage of the season to enable to get back to his best rugby.  This is a great opportunity for him and one that suits all parties with our neighbours Bath short of back row options at present.

“Although Nathan has missed out on selection in recent weeks, his attitude and commitment around the environment has been outstanding as he’s played his part in ensuring the team continues to grow and improve on and off the field. I will stay in close dialogue with him over the loan period as he could still play an important part in our season.”

Hughes will not be eligible to play in the Gallagher Premiership fixture between the sides on Saturday, March 5 (3pm KO).

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Premiership

Premiership Rugby sign new deal with ITV

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(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Premiership Rugby and ITV can today announce a game-changing new partnership to show, free-to-air, live Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches and a weekly highlights programme up until the end of the 2023-24 season.

This season four Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches will be shown on ITV, in addition to the Final which is on ITV4.

The coverage kicks off with Sale Sharks taking on Leicester Tigers on Sunday 30 January at 3pm, with the highlights show starting that evening. Furthermore, for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons there will be seven live games on ITV, also including the Final.

  • All live matches will be simulcast on ITV and BT Sport, who will continue with their comprehensive coverage across the whole season, showing live matches every weekend.
  • The new partnership means that the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final, at Twickenham Stadium on 18 June, will be shown free-to-air for the first time in the competition’s history.
  • As part of the ITV partnership, there will be a weekly highlights show on ITV4 and repeated on ITV, presented by David Flatman and Topsy Ojo.

New Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Simon Massie-Taylor said: “The return of Gallagher Premiership Rugby to terrestrial TV is the perfect way for us to kick off 2022. It’s great news for the league, our clubs, the supporters and the profile of rugby in England.

“Our ambition is to grow the game and make Gallagher Premiership Rugby available to as many people as possible. BT Sport have done an amazing job in building the core Premiership Rugby TV audience and the ITV partnership allows us to expand our reach into the households of millions of other rugby fans. This season our average match audience on BT Sport has risen 30% year on year, which shows the potential.”

Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport, said: “We are delighted to announce this deal to bring regular free-to-air coverage of top-level club rugby to viewers across ITV’s platforms. It has been a pleasure working with BT Sport and our partners at Premiership Rugby in agreeing this deal and we look forward to showcasing the action and the stories from this elite league over the coming years.”

Massie-Taylor added: “We also want to make the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final 2022 the most-watched in our history and we believe we can achieve that with the match screened on both ITV4 and BT Sport. A phenomenal proposition for English club rugby’s showpiece occasion.”

“We are delighted to have five games, rising to seven next season, live on ITV but it is also crucial for us to have a weekly highlights programme that is accessible to millions of people. This will allow us to showcase the best of Gallagher Premiership Rugby to the widest possible audience. The highlights show gives a significant, regular presence with a broadcaster that will also show the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup 2023.

“With another highly competitive and exciting season, we have seen significant growth in our audiences on BT Sport this season and we see a big opportunity to bring this amazing rugby product to new fans, drive attendances and continue to grow the game.”

In the last round of Gallagher Premiership Rugby on BT Sport we saw:

  • Our highest ever Friday night average audience –252,000 for Bristol Bears v Sale Sharks (peak: 346,000)
  • Our highest ever regular season Saturday average audience on BT Sport – 300,000 for Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs (peak: 374,000)
  • Our second-highest audience ever for a three-game weekend (only eclipsed by Round 10 earlier this season).
  • After 38 matches on BT Sport so far this season the total peak cumulative audience is 9.6 million

The deal further enhances ITV’s portfolio of world-class sports rights, which includes exclusive live coverage of the England men’s and England women’s football team, the FA Cup, the Six Nations, the Rugby World Cup, horse racing and the Tour de France.

Source – Exeter Chiefs Rugby

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