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Category: Northampton

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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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England players return as Premiership clubs seek to bask in Six Nations glow | Gerard Meagher

England and Six Nations have hogged the best players for seven weeks but Premiership clubs are now at full strength to make a push for the play-offs

Anyone attending a Premiership match this weekend may find it worthwhile leafing through the programme. It may be a little bit shinier than usual as clubs go on the charm offensive, looking to bask in the Six Nations afterglow, and a chief executive or chairman may have something to say.

Twelve months ago it was the Saracens owner, Nigel Wray, who bemoaned the “rank stupidity” of the rugby calendar, describing a system whereby Premiership clubs lose their players to internationals for a large chunk of the season as “absolute nonsense”. Now, however, the tone is likely to be more upbeat. Changes to the calendar are due after the next World Cup so expect a degree of triumphalism and reassurance that from then on clubs will not be missing their international stars – this on the weekend that 19 of the England squad who lost to Ireland last Saturday return to action.

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Exeter complete double over Leicester to climb within one point of the top

• Chiefs win 34-15 at Welford Road to earn maximum points
• Northampton keep playoff hopes alive with 32-12 victory at Sale

Exeter inflicted the biggest home league defeat of the season on Leicester to cement second place in the Aviva Premiership.

The Chiefs, who have not lost since 30 October, completed the double over Leicester with a comfortable 34-15 win, earning maximum points to take them a point behind the leaders, Wasps.

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Bristol’s Tom Varndell breaks try-scoring record in defeat against Harlequins

Bristol 8-42 Harlequins; Bath 32-30 Northampton; Sale 26-24 Newcastle

Bristol’s Tom Varndell became the Premiership’s all-time top try scorer on Friday night as he touched down for the 91st time, putting him clear of Mark Cueto’s 90.

Varndell had been waiting to break the record since New Year’s Day, when he had equalled Cueto’s mark. But the milestone was likely of little consolation to the 31-year-old as his side fell to an 42-8 defeat by Harlequins at Ashton Gate. He also sustained a knock in scoring and had to leave the field immediately afterwards.

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Sport picture of the day: Castres’ Rory Kockott gets a pass away

Rory Kockott attempts to get another Castres attack underway as the French side visit Franklins’ Gardens to take on Northampton Saints in the European Champions Cup. Kockott kicked three penalties and a conversion as Castres fought back from 13 points down to level in the second half before Tom Wood’s try gave Saints a 28-21 win. Castres’ defeat ended their hopes of a place in the quarter-finals

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Calum Clark set to leave Northampton Saints at end of Premiership season

• Versatile forward tipped to join European champions Saracens
• The 27-year-old has found first-team chances limited at Saints

The Northampton and England flanker Calum Clark is to leave the club at the end of this season. The versatile forward, who is equally comfortable on the blindside or openside and has filled in at lock and No8 in the past, is likely to join the Premiership and European champions Saracens, according to reports.

Clark, who was Northampton’s 2014-15 player of the season, won a solitary international cap in a warm-up match against France before the 2015 World Cup but was a regular member of Stuart Lancaster’s training squads and has long been tipped as a promising back-row option for England; he was a particular favourite of Lancaster having worked with the deposed England coach in the junior ranks at Leeds. This season, however, his opportunities have been limited and he missed the whole of the last campaign with a serious shoulder injury.

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RFU’s Ian Ritchie ‘happy’ with George North concussion review protocols

• Northampton escaped sanction after wing played on with concussion
• Sale under investigation for similar incident involving TJ Ioane

Ian Ritchie, the Rugby Football Union’s chief executive, has described concussion as one of the biggest challenges facing the game.

Reflecting on the incident involving George North in a match between Northampton and Leicester, Ritchie said that while he did agree North should not have been allowed to return, he was happy with the way the Concussion Management Review Group had dealt with the issue. The CMRG decided not to impose sanctions on Northampton but made nine recommendations to Premiership Rugby to try to ensure similar mistakes would not be made again.

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World Rugby ‘disappointed’ with Northampton over George North injury

• Rugby’s governing body says club failed to manage injury properly
• Saints cannot be sanctioned but findings are a stern rebuke

World Rugby has expressed its disappointment with Northampton for their handling of the George North head-injury incident in the match against Leicester last month, accusing the club of “failing to manage the injury appropriately”.

Its review, in conjunction with the RFU, found that Northampton failed to apply the correct protocols, that the Saints medical staff were preoccupied with a possible spinal injury to North and that the Wales wing should have been immediately and permanently removed from the field of play.

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Northampton sack manager Rob Page after controversial post-defeat comment

• League One club chairman blames recent run of results
• Page apologised for ‘men against girls’ comment at weekend

Northampton Town have sacked their manager Rob Page. The League One club made the announcement on Monday morning following controversial post-match comments made at the weekend by Page following the defeat at Bristol Rovers.

Page kept his players in the dressing room for 45 minutes after the 5-0 reverse, and subsequently told reporters that in his opinion the game was a case of “men against girls”.

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Rugby union weekend talking points from the Premiership and Europe

Munster’s emotional victory at Racing sets up a shootout with Glasgow, new tackling laws cause confusion, and Worcester are in another relegation battle

Those who insist rugby will go soft under the revised high tackle interpretations should study the thunderous 80-minute encounter served up by Wasps and Leicester in Coventry. If this is what the game’s future looks like, sign me up. In the first half-hour Wasps attacked as if touched by the gods, or at least an on-song Kurtley Beale. When Beale accelerates there are few more exhilarating runners in the world and, with Elliot Daly and Christian Wade both similarly box office, it seems almost indecent that Willie Le Roux will also be available for the Premiership run-in. If Wasps have a weakness, however, it is when opposing sides slow their supply of ball down. Suddenly those dazzling thrusts are harder to generate and, without a tireless worker such as Joe Launchbury, they become more vulnerable. In Thomas Young and Tommy Taylor, however, they have improving young forwards of clear international potential and will be mighty hard to beat in a home play-off, particularly if the Ricoh Arena is as full as it was on Sunday when a season-best crowd of almost 28,000 pitched up. The focus has been on Leicester all week – and what a character-laden second-half the Tigers delivered – but, of the two Midlands clubs, it is Wasps who are better placed to achieve something special between now and May. Robert Kitson

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Rugby union weekend talking points from the Premiership and Europe

Munster’s emotional victory at Racing sets up a shootout with Glasgow, new tackling laws cause confusion, and Worcester are in another relegation battle

Those who insist rugby will go soft under the revised high tackle interpretations should study the thunderous 80-minute encounter served up by Wasps and Leicester in Coventry. If this is what the game’s future looks like, sign me up. In the first half-hour Wasps attacked as if touched by the gods, or at least an on-song Kurtley Beale. When Beale accelerates there are few more exhilarating runners in the world and, with Elliot Daly and Christian Wade both similarly box office, it seems almost indecent that Willie Le Roux will also be available for the Premiership run-in. If Wasps have a weakness, however, it is when opposing sides slow their supply of ball down. Suddenly those dazzling thrusts are harder to generate and, without a tireless worker such as Joe Launchbury, they become more vulnerable. In Thomas Young and Tommy Taylor, however, they have improving young forwards of clear international potential and will be mighty hard to beat in a home play-off, particularly if the Ricoh Arena is as full as it was on Sunday when a season-best crowd of almost 28,000 pitched up. The focus has been on Leicester all week – and what a character-laden second-half the Tigers delivered – but, of the two Midlands clubs, it is Wasps who are better placed to achieve something special between now and May. Robert Kitson

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