Northampton Saints have secured the re-signing of giant-lock, Alex Coles, as the midlands-based side looks to the future with a squad filled full of academy graduates.
The two-metre-tall second-row player has been with the club for over ten years, and in that time he has made his way through the youth structure through to his 100th cap against Sale Sharks last weekend.
Speaking about the importance of capturing Coles’ signature, Saints’ Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson, said: “We’re thrilled to keep Alex here in Northampton, as he’s grown into an incredibly important player for us. He’s a big character within the group, leading our lineout on this pitch as well as being head of the squad’s social committee off it.
“He’s also come through our Academy system here at Saints – and we’re desperate to keep that core group, who have been playing their rugby in Black, Green and Gold since they were teenagers, together.
“Alex leads in a different way to some of the other guys in the squad, but he’s just as important in terms of the impact he has on the group.
“He can cover two positions, has worked hard to become a first-class lineout caller, and is now an England international as well. It’s his natural intelligence, his desire to get better, and his ability to influence those around him that is so important for us.
“To have played 100 senior games at 24 years old in such an attritional position, and to have been recognised on the international stage too, is very impressive – but we are sure there is still a lot more to come from him.”
The 24-year-old added: “I’m absolutely delighted to be staying on with Saints. This is my boyhood Club, they spotted me out of school, have brought me through the system here since I was 14 years old, and have invested so much time and effort into making me the player that I am.
“I love playing here; it’s a proper rugby town, a Club full of tradition and history, and I feel like all the people around Northampton are so invested in us as a team – that was a big part of my decision.
“On the pitch, it feels like we have something special brewing and I wanted to make sure I am involved in that. There’s a big group of guys that I’ve grown up playing alongside, and now I really want to be part of a group that delivers success for Northampton by winning some trophies.
“Over the last couple of years, I definitely feel like my role within the team has grown. I started out as a listener and a helper, but now I have a more senior role in leading the lineout, and with 100 games under my belt I have the experience to be able to support the squad’s other leaders with a real maturity growing now amongst this group.
“Another big part of this decision is thinking about where I would be best placed to try to get back in the England side. To do that, you have to play well and improve. The coaching here is excellent, development is a core value at the Club, and that really manifests itself when you see how much many of the players improve here as a result of the support we receive from all the staff.
“So, I am excited about what is to come for me. I feel like there’s still a lot to get out of my game, and I’m working hard on that every single day.”