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Category: Northampton

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Northampton get their big guns firing to overpower lacklustre Bath

• Northampton 24-6 Bath
• Courtney Lawes, Dave Ribbans and George North on scoresheet

Two wins from three – and here a bonus point, to boot. What, Northampton must be thinking, is all the fuss about?

The jury waits. Such a summary glosses over the indignity of the one defeat – the humiliation, really – but consecutive wins over the two biggest names in English rugby is enough to be getting on with, should it be felt that rebuilding were required. “You remember what people say,” said Jim Mallinder, Northampton’s director of rugby. “You read things, and it hurts. We needed a reaction last week and got it. This week we’ve shown we’re a difficult team to beat.”

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Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink off to a flyer as Northampton scuttle Doncaster

The Cobblers made Justin Edinburgh the first managerial casualty of the season and achieved lift-off of sorts under his replacement, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink said before his first game in charge of Northampton he wanted his team to “do things with joy”. Scoring after 21 seconds was more like ecstasy. But shortly after his side had sewn up a 1-0 home win over Doncaster to lift themselves off the foot of League One mere joy could be measured in his voice. “It’s a while since I’ve been screaming,” he croaked.

Hasselbaink is used to flying starts. In his first managerial appointment in England he carried on Gary Rowett’s good work at Burton, keeping them top of League Two and leaving them top of League One to go to Loftus Road. Since he left QPR in mid-table in November his voice has been recovering. Now it is the Cobblers who need repair.

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Tom Collins shows his promise as Northampton hit back against Leicester

• Northampton 24-11 Leicester
• Luther Burrell and Dylan Hartley join Collins on the scoresheet

We should not really be surprised, but anyone who knew only the Northampton that were torn limb from limb at Twickenham the weekend before would have been. The Saints are now quite used to bouncing back from harrowing experiences such as that, and this they duly did in front of their faithful, against their bitterest. The full catharsis of a bonus-point fourth try eluded them but this was a comprehensive dismantling of Leicester, their first win over the Tigers in eight attempts.

“We had to respond like that,” said Jim Mallinder, Northampton’s director of rugby. “There’s no other way. It’s a reminder for the rest of the season. In this game you’ve got to get that intensity right. Last week we didn’t really do it. This week you could tell from the first minute that we were up for it.”

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Christian Day insists plan to prolong season threatens player welfare | Robert Kitson

Saints lock and chairman of Professional Rugby Players’ Association criticises lack of consultation regarding an extended season and says players will not agree to model put forward by Premiership Rugby

A frame of snooker could be contested on the beautifully mown baize at Franklin’s Gardens but life is less smooth for its resident professional rugby players. Last weekend Northampton were humiliated by Saracens, next up is a ferocious must-win derby against Leicester. The mental and physical demands are already multiplying and it is not yet mid-September.

Imagine operating in this relentless environment right from early September until the end of June with pre-season on top, as Premiership Rugby continues to insist will be the norm from the 2019-20 season. Even in a big-match week players are anxiously scanning the horizon, praying for some sign of sanity. “It starts to get messy when players have to step in and say: ‘This isn’t right,” warns the Saints’ long-serving lock Christian Day. As the chairman of the Professional Rugby Players’ Association, Day is receiving similar feedback from worried pros up and down the country.

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Jim Mallinder still dreaming despite Northampton’s opening-day drubbing

• Nine-try rout by Saracens led to sleepless nights, says director of rugby
• Saints ring changes for Saturday’s home derby against Leicester

Northampton’s director of rugby, Jim Mallinder, believes his squad can still win the Premiership but has confessed to enduring sleepless nights as he seeks to resurrect Saints as genuine title challengers. He also acknowledges his side cannot afford another limp display against their local rivals Leicesteron Saturday having shipped nine tries in their opener against Saracens.

Under Mallinder, Saints were crowned champions in 2014 but finished seventh last season, losing four of their last five league games, and were hammered 55-24 by Saracens at Twickenham last weekend. Supporters are growing impatient and another defeat to the Tigers, who lost at home to Bath on the opening weekend, would scarcely improve the mood.

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Manu Tuilagi to undergo knee surgery in further blow to England prospects

• Leicester centre will be out for at least a month after damaging ligaments
• Dan Biggar agrees to join Northampton from Ospreys in 2018

Manu Tuilagi’s prospects of an England comeback this autumn have suffered another blow after it emerged he is set to undergo knee surgery this week. It is understood the Leicester centre tore knee ligaments in the defeat by Bath on Sunday and needs a minor operation which will sideline him for at least the next month.

Tuilagi’s career has been increasingly dogged by injury, with a more serious knee injury in January forcing him to spend seven months out. Despite scoring a try on his return against Bath, he is now facing a further three or four weeks out, leaving him precious little time to impress England’s head coach Eddie Jones before this autumn’s internationals.

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Rugby union: talking points from the Premiership’s opening weekend

Bath’s poor away form could be a thing of the past, Gloucester broke their habit of poor starts as they upset Exeter and London Irish returned in style

Todd Blackadder was in little doubt over where Bath needed to improve this season. Poor away form was not a problem limited to his side last season but there can be little doubting it ultimately cost them a place in the last four. Blackadder believes the issue was mental; that for no reason other than different surroundings his team did not play with the authority they did at The Rec in front of their own supporters. So in pre-season Blackadder took his squad on the road to Cardiff and London Irish to jolt them out of their comfort zone. Judging by their resilience at Welford Road it has worked a treat and, considering he can welcome Sam Underhill, Charlie Ewels and Dave Attwood back to bolster his pack, there is genuine reason for early-season optimism at Bath. Gerard Meagher

Match report: Leicester 23-27 Bath
The Recap: our best coverage straight to your inbox

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Schalk Brits to savour final season with Saracens before retirement

• Club persuaded front-row forward to play another year
• Brits played starring role in demolition of Northampton

Schalk Brits, all 36 years of him, looked as if he could carry on doing this well into his 50s. Nevertheless, after a typically mesmerising performance in the Twickenham sunshine, where Saracens thrashed Northampton, he revealed how near he came to retiring at the end of last season.

“I was very close,” he said. “I did accountancy in Stellenbosch and I spoke to Cambridge and Oxford about doing an MBA. The plan was to stop playing professional rugby and play one year of varsity. My wife was not that excited about me going back to be a full-time student, with three little ones, but now I am studying part time.”

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Schalk Brits to savour final season with Saracens before retirement

• Club persuaded front-row forward to play another year
• Brits played starring role in demolition of Northampton

Schalk Brits, all 36 years of him, looked as if he could carry on doing this well into his 50s. Nevertheless, after a typically mesmerising performance in the Twickenham sunshine, where Saracens thrashed Northampton, he revealed how near he came to retiring at the end of last season.

“I was very close,” he said. “I did accountancy in Stellenbosch and I spoke to Cambridge and Oxford about doing an MBA. The plan was to stop playing professional rugby and play one year of varsity. My wife was not that excited about me going back to be a full-time student, with three little ones, but now I am studying part time.”

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League One and League Two: a fan from each club previews the 2017–18 season

If the fans who spoke to us are right, Bradford City, Bristol Rovers, Bury, Charlton and Southend United – and a few other clubs – will be in the play-offs

• Championship: fans preview the season

It would be nice to stay clear of relegation and have a comfortable season with a few big wins to keep us going. I’d like a number of our younger players to establish themselves here rather than being bought by Premier League clubs.

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The next Bournemouth? Northampton enter a new era after Chinese takeover | Paul Doyle

The League One side are the latest Football League club to welcome Chinese investment – an intriguing change is certainly afoot for the Cobblers

No one is losing their heads at Northampton Town but ambition, if not expectation, has gone through the roof. “There’s no ceiling in football,” says the club’s chairman, Kelvin Thomas. “There used to be but I think that’s gone away. If you look at the Swanseas, Bournemouths and Huddersfields of the world and how these clubs with the right decisions and the right investment can make inroads into Premier League and the Championship, then you’re absolutely not going to pin me down into saying where we can go. We’re just trying to kick on and win football matches.”

Thomas spoke to the Guardian after announcing that a Chinese company, 5USport, has bought a 60% stake in Northampton Town, who finished 16th in League One last season. Neither party is willing to disclose the financial terms of the transaction nor reveal how much money is now available to the club but it is clear that the Cobblers are entering a new era. Transformation might be overstating it but an intriguing change is certainly afoot.

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Goalmouth drama: football fans become players in their clubs’ stories

From the terraces to the post-match showers, two new theatre shows let Cobblers, Blues and Villains supporters tackle their teams’ histories and rivalries

Football and theatre can both range from farce to bloodbath. But the tepid response to Patrick Marber’s The Red Lion, set in a lower-league changing room, exposed the problem that plays on the subject tend to include too much football for people who like theatre and too much theatre for people who like football. More successful works have used fans as metaphors for tensions in society: Peter Terson’s Zigger Zagger and Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads by Roy Williams.

Related: Theatre of dreams: the 11 best plays about football

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Money talks as Louis Picamoles agrees to leave Northampton for Montpellier

• Picamoles offered deal to ‘underpin the future financial stability for his family’
• Deal for France No8 believed to be worth £900,000

Louis Picamoles is to leave Northampton Saints to rejoin Montpellier after the Premiership club have said they have “reluctantly” agreed a significant transfer fee – thought to be £900,000 – for his services.

The France No8 had two years left on his deal at Northampton, which was thought to be worth £500,000-a-year, and the club’s chairman Tony Hewitt had made clear earlier this month that they wanted to keep hold of him.

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Harry Mallinder kicks Northampton back into Champions Cup

• Northampton 23-22 Stade Français
• Harry Mallinder kicks match-winning conversion

Northampton have done next to nothing the easy way all season so perhaps their circuitous route into next season’s Champions Cup should not come as a surprise. But they can take enormous credit for the resilience shown to cap an exhilarating victory over Stade Français thanks to Ahsee Tuala’s dramatic late try and Harry Mallinder’s nerveless conversion.

When Tuala went over, Northampton were down to 13 – the captain Tom Wood had been sent off for a stamp to the head of Djibril Camara that may well rule him out of England’s tour to Argentina – while Rory Hutchinson was in the sin-bin. Northampton, 16 points down at one pointin the first half, did not know when they were beaten. “I don’t think anybody can see Tom actually putting his foot on the opponent. It’s an unfortunate one,” said Northampton’s director of rugby, Jim Mallinder. “There’s certainly nothing deliberate in there but we’ll see what happens with the disciplinary.”

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Rugby’s generation game sees Young and Maunder Jr make names for themselves | Robert Kitson

Family ties are rife in the game with former players Dai Young and Jim Mallinder coaching their sons and Jack Maunder following in his father’s footsteps

Even as small boys Thomas Young and his two brothers knew instinctively what to do whenever they saw their Wales international father Dai’s packed bag in the front hall. “Apparently the three of us used to have a fight to get into his kit bag before he went away,” recalls Young Jr. “The three of us would jump in and say: ‘We’re going with him.’” Like father, like son? Let’s just say the chances of the Wasps flanker pursuing a career in classical dance were never great.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

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Rugby’s generation game sees Young and Maunder Jr make names for themselves | Robert Kitson

Family ties are rife in the game with former players Dai Young and Jim Mallinder coaching their sons and Jack Maunder following in his father’s footsteps

Even as small boys Thomas Young and his two brothers knew instinctively what to do whenever they saw their Wales international father Dai’s packed bag in the front hall. “Apparently the three of us used to have a fight to get into his kit bag before he went away,” recalls Young Jr. “The three of us would jump in and say: ‘We’re going with him.’” Like father, like son? Let’s just say the chances of the Wasps flanker pursuing a career in classical dance were never great.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

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Matt Mullan and Wasps burst into life to beat Northampton at the last

• Wasps 32-30 Northampton
• Mullen scores try in 80th minute which is converted by Jimmy Gopperth

It had seemed the Premiership’s longest unbeaten home run was about to be reset. It had seemed, just as the season reaches its climax, that Wasps’ wobbles were to be confirmed as fully contracted. But with the last play of the game, after a 10‑minute siege, Matt Mullan was driven over for a try whose conversion won the game. It also netted a bonus point, keeping them top of the table by five points.

So that 16-month unbeaten run remains intact but whether they can hope to win the Premiership with defence like theirs remains unlikely. Their attack, though, is spectacular. At times in the second half they were unplayable but their first half was almost as chaotic as their match had been against Leinster the week before.

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Courtney Lawes hunts Lions spot in New Zealand after England power play

The Northampton forward forced his way into a stocked England back row by changing his training regime and hopes to round off a career-defining season by facing down the All Blacks

At the start of the season, Courtney Lawes’s prospects of making the British & Irish Lions tour this summer looked even more distant than New Zealand itself. Second row was the best stocked of all the positions and the 28-year-old Saint had fallen behind George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury in the England lock hierarchy.

Lawes has had more than his share of injuries during his career and when Itoje and Kruis were ruled out of the start of England’s autumn international campaign, the Northampton forward, who had started one match in the 2016 Six Nations and was a replacement on the summer tour to Australia, was given an opportunity. He seized it with such force that when Itoje returned for this year’s championship, the Saracen was picked at blindside flanker.

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Courtney Lawes hunts Lions spot in New Zealand after England power play

The Northampton forward forced his way into a stocked England back row by changing his training regime and hopes to round off a career-defining season by facing down the All Blacks

At the start of the season, Courtney Lawes’s prospects of making the British & Irish Lions tour this summer looked even more distant than New Zealand itself. Second row was the best stocked of all the positions and the 28-year-old Saint had fallen behind George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury in the England lock hierarchy.

Lawes has had more than his share of injuries during his career and when Itoje and Kruis were ruled out of the start of England’s autumn international campaign, the Northampton forward, who had started one match in the 2016 Six Nations and was a replacement on the summer tour to Australia, was given an opportunity. He seized it with such force that when Itoje returned for this year’s championship, the Saracen was picked at blindside flanker.

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Leicester show togetherness despite Mauger disruption, says Tom Youngs

• New Zealander given perfect sendoff with 36-31 win at Northampton
• ‘It was sad to see Aaron go and it was emotional after the match’

Leicester’s players were determined not to play out Aaron Mauger in a minor key. Their captain, Tom Youngs, called a players’ meeting last week after the club had announced the New Zealander would be replaced by Matt O’Connor and the response was their most impressive away performance of the season.

Related: Leicester fightback sinks Northampton in thriller as Mauger goes out on high

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