Departing Saints coach Dickens looking forward to 'special' Franklin's Gardens return
Alan Dickens is looking forward to a 'special' Franklin's Gardens return after leaving Saints to become England Under-20s head coach.
Dickens will bring his England youngsters to Northampton for the Under-20s Six Nations encounter against their Ireland counterparts on February 21 next year.
It will be an emotional comeback for the 43-year-old, who has this week departed Saints after 11 years at the club as a player and coach.
His final game as defence coach came last Saturday as the black, green and gold bagged a crucial 35-32 Champions Cup win at Benetton.
And Dickens is now looking forward to a fresh challenge as he bids to progress as a coach.
“Northampton Saints has not only been a huge part of my coaching career so far, it’s been a huge part of my life," said former scrum-half Dickens, who joined Saints from Saracens in 2008.
“My dad was from Northampton so as a kid we supported the club together.
"I’ve always had a connection with the town, so first to play for the club and then to coach here has been a privilege – my kids now support Northampton too and were pretty upset to hear I’d be leaving!
“I leave having made some amazing memories – that semi-final against Leicester in 2014 stands out in particular – and learned from some tough experiences.
"Franklin’s Gardens is a fantastic place. I coached a lot of the current first-team squad when they were starting out as teenagers, so I’m extremely proud of their progress.
“I want to thank both Jim Mallinder and Chris Boyd for the opportunities they have given me, but I have been at Northampton for my entire coaching career so far, and to progress I have to go away and develop further.
“I’m already looking forward to coming back to the Gardens in February with England; it’s a proper rugby stadium with supporters who love the game, so that will be a special moment for me.”