New defence coach Radford ready to 'add some stiffness and resilience' to Saints

Lee Radford is ready to 'add some stiffness and resilience' to Saints after being named as the club's new defence coach.
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The 44-year-old replaces Ian Vass, who left the black, green and gold by mutual consent and has since joined French giants Clermont Auvergne as kicking coach.

Radford faces a big challenge at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens as Saints shipped the second most points and tries last season.

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Only bottom side Newcastle Falcons had a worse record than Saints defensively during the previous Gallagher Premiership campaign.

Lee Radford is already hard at work with Saints (picture: Tom Kwah/Northampton Saints)Lee Radford is already hard at work with Saints (picture: Tom Kwah/Northampton Saints)
Lee Radford is already hard at work with Saints (picture: Tom Kwah/Northampton Saints)

And Radford's task will be providing a more solid platform on which the swashbuckling attacking style can flourish.

The new man certainly has plenty of pedigree, having enjoyed a stellar playing and coaching career in rugby league, winning numerous titles.

As a player, Radford made 158 appearances for Bradford Bulls in-between two spells at hometown club Hull FC, where he played 193 matches in total, and earned five international caps for England.

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He became the youngest-ever player to represent Hull FC in 1998, and twice won the Super League Grand Final with Bradford Bulls in 2003 and 2005.

He also reached two further Grand Finals (2004 and 2006), won the World Club Challenge in 2004, and claimed the Challenge Cup title in 2003.

Towards the end of his playing career, Radford was appointed defence coach at rugby union side Hull RUFC in National 2 North, winning the Yorkshire Cup title in 2011.

And once he hung up his boots permanently in 2011, Radford quickly ascended from an assistant coach role at Hull FC to head coach in 2013.

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He won back-to-back Challenge Cup titles in 2016 and 2017, scooping the Super League’s head coach of the year award in 2016.

After leaving Hull FC, Radford took over as Castleford Tigers’ head coach from the start of 2022 until March of this year.

He was also appointed defence coach by Samoa for the Rugby League World Cup which was held in England in 2022, helping the side all the way to the final where they were eventually beaten by Australia.

And now Radford is looking forward to ensuring Saints, who finished fourth in the Premiership last season despite their defensive woes, are much harder to score against.

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He said: “Speaking to Phil (Dowson) and Sam (Vesty) gave me a really good feeling of what Northampton Saints are about, and also a great indication about their relationship as well, as you can tell there is a real closeness there in terms of how they work together.

“That was really appealing to me, as those relationships are so important within an elite rugby environment, and coming down to look around the club just reaffirmed all the great things they said about the place, the people, and the infrastructure here.

“Saints places the youth structure and production of homegrown talent at the very heart of what they do, which really closely aligns to my experience during my coaching career so far as well.

“The brand of rugby Northampton already plays is really appealing and exciting to watch, but my job now is to add some stiffness and resilience where I can to this team, so we can really forge our own identity defensively and make some big improvements.

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“Moving from league into union is a massive challenge, but a very exciting one.

"I still have a lot to learn about rugby union, but I’ve had some great conversations with the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Martin Gleeson, and Jamie Langley already about the game and how to best make that transition, so I can’t wait to get to work.”

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