Boss Boyd 'thrilled' as Saints tie five talented youngsters to new deals
Saints boss Chris Boyd is 'thrilled' after five of the club's brightest young players signed new deals at Franklin's Gardens.
Alex Coles, Devante Onojaife, Toby Trinder, Fraser Strachan and Ollie Sleightholme have all agreed to remain within Saints' Senior Academy next season.
All five players were given first-team rugby at various stages of last season, as well as impressing for the Wanderers in the Premiership Rugby Shield competition.
The quintet made up just half of the Academy players to graduate into first-team action during the 2018/19 campaign, with 10 in total making their senior debuts.
And Boyd said: "I’m thrilled to see five more really promising young footballers commit themselves to the club for the coming season.
“Age is only a number and so I’m excited to see Alex, Devante, Toby, Fraser and Ollie buy back into that message and what we are trying to achieve here at Franklin’s Gardens.”
Academy manager Mark Hopley has played a big role in the development of the players.
And he is hopeful the group can continue to make the race for selection as competitive as ever.
“Chris Boyd showed last season that he’ll pick players to play in the first team based on form,” Hopley said.
“Having as many young players as possible battling for the shirt is only going to help Northampton Saints as we look to build on an encouraging campaign just gone.
“All five players have represented their countries at age-group level and also played their part in the club lifting our first silverware (the Premiership Rugby Cup) in five years back in March, so I’m looking forward to seeing what more is to come from the group.”
Coles and Sleightholme have just returned from international duty with England at the 2019 World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Argentina.
Towering lock Coles was scouted by the club as a 13-year-old and earned his first full-time contract ahead of last season, where he made six appearances and scored a try in the European Challenge Cup victory over Timisoara Saracens.
The fleet-footed Sleightholme – son of former Saint, Jon – notched up seven tries in as many first-team appearances in black, green and gold last season.
With a Commonwealth Youth Games silver medal, a Premiership Rugby Sevens Bowl winners’ medal, and the record for the fastest-ever debut try in Premiership Rugby history already in his locker, Sleightholme Junior is certainly one to watch.
Onojaife rose through Saints’ Academy system as a loosehead prop before switching to the back row at Under-18s level, making his first-team debut in that position back in 2016.
The 21-year-old also gained international honours, representing Scotland U20s during the 2018 Six Nations.
Trinder was involved in both the Six Nations and World Rugby Under-20s Championship in 2018 with England, having already represented the Red Rose at Under-17 and Under-19 level.
The loosehead prop made his senior debut last season, coming off the bench against Wasps in the Premiership Rugby Cup.
And Scotland Under-20s international Strachan made his first Saints appearances in the same competition against Bristol Bears and Wasps, adding a European debut two months later against Dragons – with the centre having already twice claimed the Premiership Rugby Shield title as part of the Wanderers squad.