Northampton Saints off-pitch heroes celebrated ahead of Premiership kick-off

Claire Jones, Jezz Salford and Tom Wood
Claire Jones, Jezz Salford and Tom Wood

Two of Northampton's off-pitch heroes have been celebrated ahead of the start of Saints' Premiership campaign.

Claire Jones and Jezz Salford were chosen by the league's sponsor, Gallagher, to meet Saints player Tom Wood at Twickenham.

Two ambassadors from each Premiership club were invited to Twickenham to meet the star players

Two ambassadors from each Premiership club were invited to Twickenham to meet the star players

The ambassadors were picked by their clubs in recognition of what they believe rugby stands for.

Eleven years ago, 54-year-old Claire emailed the Saints, who had been just been relegated to National Division 1, to ask if she could take photos at games.

She was welcomed pitchside wearing her now trademark red hat. She wore it to every match and Claire has followed Saints across Europe and photographed more than 300 games, capturing the club's first Premiership title.

Jezz joined the Saints as club chaplain two years ago, visiting every week to offer pastoral care and a helping hand.

Whether it's helping the kit man with tackle bags or bringing biscuits for the coaches, Jezz is happy to muck in where he can.

His influence is felt across the club and is considered a valued member of the team and a "true Saintsman".

Simon Matson, incoming chief executive of Gallagher’s UK broking and underwriting operations, said: “As a community insurance broker and benefits adviser, our passion is about protecting and helping businesses so they can grow, communities so they can thrive and individuals so they can achieve.

"Just as rugby helps to inspire, empower and deliver excellence through trust, teamwork and the effective evaluation of risk.

"So what better way to mark the official countdown to the new Gallagher Premiership Rugby season than to take these shared values and shine the spotlight on all those community and club heroes who help make rugby such an inclusive and empowering sport - whose efforts and dedication both protect and grow the game.

"As the premiership’s new title partner, we will continue to champion the game’s off-pitch inspirational ambassadors, just as much as we savour each and every competitive clash of its on-pitch heroes.”