Saints form 'long-term relationship' with Bedford Blues

Saints have entered into a 'long-term relationship' with Bedford Blues that Northampton CEO Mark Darbon says will 'help both organisations financially'.

Current Saints forwards coach Phil Dowson in action against Bedford during a Franklin's Gardens friendly in August 2009
Current Saints forwards coach Phil Dowson in action against Bedford during a Franklin's Gardens friendly in August 2009

The new, mutually beneficial collaboration will see Saints and the Blues formally cooperate on a number of playing, coaching and training opportunities.

For the 2020/21 Championship season Saints will exclusively make available a number of Academy and senior squad players to the Championship outfit.

A coaching pathway between the two clubs has also been agreed, where Saints will make high quality, high potential young coaches available to Bedford’s coaching setup in order for them to gain valuable experience in the second tier of English rugby.

In addition, Blues coaching staff will benefit from attending regular upskilling sessions with seniors Saints coaches held at Franklin’s Gardens.

The partnership also allows for joint training sessions between the two clubs when advantageous.

“I am delighted to be able to announce Saints’ strategic partnership with a club of the calibre of Bedford Blues,” Darbon said.

“Like Saints, Bedford has a long and proud history, with close ties to its local community, so we believe it’s a natural fit.

“The new partnership will be mutually beneficial, aiming to bring greater benefits to players and coaching staff at both clubs, as well as helping both organisations financially.

“We very much see this as a long-term relationship, which we hope could evolve further over time.”

As part of the relationship, an annual pre-season fixture will also now be played, alternating each season between Franklin’s Gardens and Goldington Road, home of the Bedford Blues.

“Saints has a long history of producing high-quality, home grown talent and it is fundamentally important that this continues to be the case,” said Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd.

“Our new relationship with Bedford ensures that we can continue to develop our best young players by securing them regular Championship game time in a highly competitive environment.

“Having got to know (Bedford director of rugby) Mike Rayer and some of the Blues coaches I’m confident that we’re working with excellent people who share a similar philosophy on rugby and I’m excited about what we can do together.”

Several current and former Saints players have headed to Bedford for game time in years gone by.

And the Blues are clearly delighted to maintain that pathway.

Bedford chairman Geoff Irvine said: “We are very pleased to be able to make this announcement, not only does the relationship give us fantastic access to their players and resources, but it is a lifeline to our club in the present situation.

“Saints is the natural fit, our near neighbours with a shared passion for history and heritage. This long-term partnership will help safeguard our Championship status and allow us to build for the seasons ahead.

“The decision was influenced by the challenging financial situation we face, not least as a result of the cuts announced by the RFU earlier this year and the uncertainty about future funding.”

And Bedford boss Rayer added: “Given the current circumstances and longer-term picture, the partnership with Saints is a no-brainer.

“Conversations with Chris Boyd have been really positive and it’s a great opportunity for more collaborative thinking and progression.

"It’s clear we share a similar rugby philosophy and that will form the basis of a strong relationship.

“We will be working with some of the best youngsters in the country through the Saints pathway, and together with our retained squad it should give us a great balance.

"There are already several links in the Saints coaching setup so it’s a really natural fit and one we are very excited about.”