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Premiership

Saints legend Wood signs contract extension

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(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood will continue playing at Franklin’s Gardens next season after signing an extension to his contract.

The 34-year-old flanker has turned out 226 times to date in Black, Green and Gold since making his debut 11 seasons ago – scoring 21 tries along the way.

Wood, born in Coventry, has already written himself into Northampton folklore in a decade at the Gardens so far, and joined Saints’ revered ‘200 club’ in 2019. The abrasive and athletic back row has claimed Gallagher Premiership (2014), European Challenge Cup (2014), Premiership Rugby Cup (2019), and Premiership Player of the Season (2011) titles during his tenure at the Club, as well as helping Saints reach the Heineken Cup final in 2011.

But Wood is only looking forwards and has his sights firmly set on achieving more success within a young and ever-improving Northampton playing group.

“It’s awesome to be staying on at Saints,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of this group, and emotionally speaking the Club is such a big part of my life, so to be given this opportunity is a huge privilege.

“I’ve only ever wanted to stay around as long as I am able to fulfil my role as a player; I only want to be here if I am competing, giving my best on matchday and in training each week.”

Tom Wood

“So, it’s really important to me that I am in genuine contention for a starting spot – that’s been the case this year, so I hope to continue that moving forwards.

“I hope I set a good example around the Club by the way I play and conduct myself, and that my experience does rub off on some of the youngsters.

“As a group, we know we are capable of so much more than we have delivered this year. That’s hopefully part of our development and we’ll learn the lessons we need to ahead of next season, and be better for it.”

Capable of playing across all three back row positions, Wood will always be remembered at Franklin’s Gardens for scoring the last-gasp decisive try in the 2014 Premiership semi-final against Leicester Tigers, before captaining Northampton in two finals during Saints’ double-winning season.

He has also amassed 50 caps for England during his time at the Club; appearing at two Rugby World Cups, captaining his country on three occasions, and helping the Red Rose to a Six Nations triumph in 2017.

And Saints’ Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd, is thrilled Wood opted to stay on at Franklin’s Gardens.

He said: “Woody brings a massive amount of experience and leadership to our group, and you absolutely can’t underestimate the contributions he has made on the field this season – he’s played very well.

“He still feels like he is mentally and physically capable of making a big contribution next season, and is a great lieutenant for Alex Waller and Lewis Ludlam around the place.

“In any organisation – elite sport or otherwise – it is so important to have people within that are deeply, emotionally connected to that organisation.

“Woody’s that sort of guy; he was never looking to play his rugby anywhere else, and while he’s well set-up for his post-rugby life whenever his retirement comes, he’s not ready to hang up his boots just yet which is great news for Northampton Saints.”

Source – Northampton Saints Rugby

Premiership

Newcastle Falcons sign former Ulster forward

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Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Former Ulster back-five forward Matthew Dalton has joined Newcastle Falcons on a two-year deal.

Standing at 6 foot 6 and weighing 115kg, the ex-Ireland Under-20s international is already on Tyneside, aiming to hit the ground running for the start of pre-season.

“I wasn’t supposed to start until July 1 but I had a bit of a chat with the coaches, and we thought it would be best if I came over early,” said Dalton, the 22-year-old who has played ten times for Ulster.

“I arrived a few weeks back and have been working hard with the strength and conditioning coaches. It’s a chance to meet everyone, see the lay of the land and put in some graft ahead of the start of pre-season. It’s been great so far, and I’ve made some big gains.”

A former international pentathlete for Ireland Schools, with high jump and hurdles as his stronger events, Dalton believes the Falcons’ high-tempo game will suit his own personal attributes as he strives to make his Gallagher Premiership breakthrough.

“I like to bring some speed to the game with the way that I play,” said the former Malone RFC man who has played mainly in the second row, with a handful of appearances on the blind-side flank.

“Looking at the pitch here and the way the Falcons go about their game, I think that could be a good fit.

“Coming into a Premiership team from the Pro 14 – there are definitely a lot of differences, but also a few similarities. Newcastle have got a very fit and dynamic pack, and with the style of rugby I play I think it will marry well.

“I’ve had a bit of time off to do some growing up and self-reflecting, and this is definitely a good move for me. I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity presented to me over these next two years, and I’m just incredibly glad how it’s worked out.”

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Matty is a real talent who is blessed with great athleticism.

“He has shown his work ethic by coming over early and laying the foundations for pre-season, and I’m excited about what he can bring to our squad during his time here with us.”

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

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Premiership

London Irish centurion to retire

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(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

London Irish full-back Tom Homer is retiring from the sport with immediate effect following the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.

Homer, who made 126 appearances and scored 785 points for the Exiles across two stints with the Club, has decided that it’s the right time for him to hang up his boots.

Tom had agreed a move to French side US Montalbanaise but has since decided his future is away from the rugby field.

“I suppose my love for life is now beyond the rugby field,” explained Homer.

“I’ve played rugby for 13 years now and have some brilliant memories, but it just feels like the right time to retire.

“There is something poetic about finishing at the Club where it all started. I’m looking forward to the next adventure.”

Looking back at his career, Homer chose not to reflect a particular match, try or conversion, but more so on those fellow players he has shared the pitch with.

“My first year at London Irish and getting to play in the Premiership Final was a massive highlight, but more than anything, I will remember the people that I got to share those types of experiences with,” he said.

“Thank you to all the people that have supported me during my career, you stuck with me through thick and thin. I really appreciate it.”

Declan Kidney, when commenting on Tom’s decision said: “We wish nothing but the best to Tom and his family in the future.

“He has had a fantastic career and should be very proud of everything that he has achieved. I know he will be successful in whatever path he chooses to do next, and I would like to thank him for his generosity, work ethic and friendship during his time at London Irish.”

Thank you for everything Tom. Good luck in your future – you will always be welcome at Hazelwood.

Source – London Irish Rugby

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Premiership

Wasps team to face Leicester Tigers as fans return to Ricoh Arena on Saturday

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Lee Blackett has named his Wasps side to host Leicester Tigers, in front of fans at Ricoh Arena, in the final round of the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday.

There are five changes to the starting line-up that won against London Irish last time out.

Malakai Fekitoa returns from injury to partner Michael Le Bourgeois in the centres.  

Josh Bassett will make his 150th Wasps appearance on Saturday, as he forms the back three with Marcus Watson and Rob Miller, who comes in for the injured Charlie Atkinson at full-back.

Jacob Umaga will also make his 50th Wasps appearance on Saturday, as he once again forms the half-back partnership with Dan Robson.  

The front row trio of Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Kieran Brookes line up for their final appearances in Wasps colours.

Will Rowlands also makes his final outing in Black and Gold in the second row with James Gaskell.

The only other change to the pack sees Sione Vailanu come in for the injured Thomas Young. Vailanu starts at number eight in his final Wasps game, meaning man-of-the-match from last week Tom Willis moves to blindside flanker and captain Brad Shields shifts to seven.

Amongst the replacements there is a welcome return to action for Alfie Barbeary. He is joined on the bench by Gabriel Oghre, Ben Harris, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Tim Cardall, Jimmy Gopperth, Juan de Jongh and Ben Vellacott, with de Jongh and Vellacott in line to play their last games for the Club.

Wasps team to face Leicester Tigers at Ricoh Arena on Saturday in Gallagher Premiership Round 22 (kick-off 3:00pm)

Wasps (First-team appearances)

15 Rob Miller (125)

14 Marcus Watson (51)

13 Malakai Fekitoa (36)

12 Michael Le Bourgeois (58)

11 Josh Bassett (149)

10 Jacob Umaga (49)

9 Dan Robson (136)

1 Simon McIntyre (183)

2 Tommy Taylor (90)

3 Kieran Brookes (58)

4 Will Rowlands (112)

5 James Gaskell (140)

6 Tom Willis (40)

7 Brad Shields (52) (c)

8 Sione Vailanu (31)

Replacements

16 Gabriel Oghre (45)

17 Ben Harris (79)

18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen (44)

19 Tim Cardall (29)

20 Alfie Barbeary (14)

21 Ben Vellacott (19)

22 Jimmy Gopperth (127)

23 Juan de Jongh (66)

Unavailable due to injury: Charlie Atkinson (Concussion), Lasha Jaiani (Pectoral), Zach Kibirige (Ankle), Joe Launchbury (ACL), Ryan Mills (Foot), Matteo Minozzi (Eye), Paolo Odogwu (ACL), Will Simonds (Groin), Sam Spink (Groin), Theo Vukasinovic (Achilles), Tom West (LCL/Hamstring), Jack Willis (PCL/MCL), Thomas Young (Hamstring).

Source – Wasps Rugby

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