Soane Tonga’uiha has confirmed he will leave Northampton Saints at the end of this season.
Tonga’uiha has racked up 206 appearances for Northampton since joining from Bedford Blues in 2006.
He has become a cornerstone of the Saints pack, helping the club to National League One, EDF Energy National Trophy, European Challenge Cup and LV= Cup success.
And he has also powered the club into three successive Premiership semi-finals and a Heineken Cup final, in 2011.
The 31-year-old loosehead now heads off to Paris to sample pastures new, and he goes with Mallinder’s full backing.
“Soane has been a big part of the squad throughout my time at the Saints,” said the Saints boss.
“He has shown consistency and durability in one of the toughest positions on the field and will go down as one of the best props to play for the club, not least with 200-plus appearances under his belt.
“Soane is moving on as an individual and we will move on as a club, and now that the speculation regarding his future is over we can all put our focus on ending the season in style and getting into the Premiership play-offs.
“We wish Soane, Lucy and the rest of the Tonga’uiha family all the very best for the future.”
Tonga’uiha, currently in his testimonial year, will now focus on giving a happy ending to his Saints story by helping the club claim Premiership glory.
And the popular player, affectionately known as Tiny – an ironic reference to his 20st frame – has hailed the Saints fans for the support they have given him during his time at the club.
“My seven years at Northampton have been very happy ones,” he said. “I have been with the club through relegation to promotion to the Heineken Cup final and it is a journey that has made Saints a part of me.
“Northampton is a fantastic club, with excellent coaches, management, staff and facilities. I am surrounded by a great bunch of talented lads who I believe with the addition of incoming players (not to mention the huge talent within the Academy) will go on to win plenty of silverware.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me during my seven years here. In particular, my family and I have been overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness and support we have been shown by the people of Northampton during my testimonial year.
“This generosity has enabled me to donate £20,000 to charitable causes as well as to ship a 40ft container filled with donations to my old school, Vaini Primary in Tonga. This would not have been possible without the help of my dedicated testimonial committee led by Jon Evans and Darren Briers, and also the faithful fans of Northampton Saints.
“Finally, this is not a goodbye for the time being as there is still plenty to play for. Saints are back in the top four and this season is far from over. I hope to leave this club in a high and I still believe we have a team that can go all the way.”