Mark Hopley is the new head coach of the Saints Academy.
Hopey has been working as an assistant coach at Franklin’s Gardens, but has now been switched to the vacant head coach role at the academy with immediate effect.
The 33-year-old came through the Saints Academy himself before making more than 50 appearances in the Saints first team.
After initially taking on a leadership role within the Wanderers set-up at the club, Hopley joined the Saints Academy coaching staff in 2010.
Hopley has steered a number of young players into the first-team, and not only helped the Wanderers reach two A League finals before winning the competition in 2017, but also guided the Under-18s to the league title in 2014 and a runners-up finish the following year.
Hopley is delighted to take on the head coach role at the academy, and said: “Helping to develop young talent at Franklin’s Gardens and help these hard working young players transition into the first-team squad is something I’m very passionate about.
“The Saints Academy is continuing to come on leaps and bounds; this year has seen more contact time with the players, one-to-one sessions with the senior squad and a mentoring system put in place – so my focus will be to build on that momentum.
“I’m still learning my craft as a rugby coach and have learned a great deal over the last 18 months working with the first team coaches.
“I am grateful to Jim Mallinder for the opportunity and to Alan Dickens for his continued support and mentoring.
“I am passionate about youth development and feel that I can add value to the already successful academy set-up. I am looking forward to working with some very talented individuals within our system.”
Having made several changes to the Saints Academy’s set-up in recent months, Academy manager Simon Sinclair is confident Hopley will help the side make big strides forwards.
“It’s absolutely fantastic for us to have someone of Mark’s huge experience coming into our set-up,” said Sinclair.
“Our aim in the academy is to give these guys as many opportunities as possible to learn about what it takes to be a professional rugby player.
“Mark will work closely with our Under-18s over their holiday periods as well as full-time with our contracted Senior Academy players, bringing them into the professional environment to try and make the transition to senior rugby seamless.
“We have several players coming through at Franklin’s Gardens who we believe could have a very bright future for English rugby.”