Northampton Saints is an English rugby union club from Northampton that currently plays in England's top league, the Guinness Premiership.

They play at Franklin Gardens currently a 12,500 all seater stadium. Another 2,000 seats are being added.

History

The club was established in 1880 under the original title of Northampton St. James (Saints) by Rev Samuel Wathen Wigg, a local clergyman and curate of St. James. This is how the club got its two nicknames of The Saints or Jimmies. His original concept was to promote "order" to his younger parish members by creating a youth rugby club, with the philosophy of a "hooligan sport designed to turn them into gentlemen".

It was not long before Northampton had one of the major Rugby Union teams in the country. Twenty years after its establishment, the first Saints player, local farmer Harry Weston, was awarded an England cap.

As the club progressed through the early years of the 20th century one player dominated this era for the club, Edgar Mobbs. Edgar was a hero throughout the town. He was the first Northampton player to captain his country but he is best remembered for his exploits in World War 1. After initially being turned down as too old, Edgar raised his own "Sportsmans" battalion otherwise known as Mobbs Own. Edgar was sadly killed in battle, on 29th July 1917 attacking a machine gun post and his body was never found. The club arranged the Mobbs Memorial Match as a tribute. It has been played every year since 1921 between the Barbarians and East Midlands at Franklyn Gardens.

In this postwar period the Saints continued to grow, and they started to produce some of the best players in England, some of whom went on to captain their country. They were one of the driving forces in the English game for the next 60 years producing players such as Butterfield, Jeeps, Longland, White and Jacobs but hard times were ahead.

The club failed to keep pace with movements within the game and top players were no longer attracted to the Gardens, where a 'them and us' mentality had built up between the players and those on those in charge of the club. Some former players formed their own task force which swept out the old brigade in the 'Saints Revolution' and put a plan into action which would put the club back at the top of the English game.

Barry Corless, as director of rugby, set about restructuring the club and soon the Saints were back on the way up, helped somewhat by the signing of All Blacks legend Wayne' Buck' Shelford.

In 1990, Northampton Rugby Union Football Club gained promotion to the then First Division and the following year made their first trip to Twickenham to play Quins in the Pilkington Cup Final. They lost in extra time but the foundations of a good Saints lineup were beginning to show in the following few seasons.

Tim Rodber and Ian Hunter forced their way into the England setup while youngsters like Matt Dawson and Nick Beal came through the ranks.

In 1994, Ian McGeechan took over as Director of Rugby, and although the club were relegated in his first season, they returned in style the next season, winning every single game of their campaign and averaging 50 points a game.

In 1995, the game of Rugby Union turned professional and the club was taken over by current chairman local businessman Keith Barwell.

In 1999, Saints came runners-up in the Allied Dunbar Premiership and achieved their first place in the Heineken European Cup. Ian McGeechan left the club at the end of the season to return to coach Scotland, and was replaced by former Saints player John Steele who had done well on a limited budget at London Scottish.

In 2000, Saints lost in the Tetley's Bitter Cup Final to Wasps, but beat Munster 9-8 in the European Cup Final to win their first major trophy.

After a poor start to the 2001/2002 season, former All-Black coach Wayne Smith was appointed as Head Coach. He went on to transform the club in five short months. A team who looked down and out in November were moulded into a side that reached the Powergen Cup final and again qualified for the Heineken Cup.

Current England elite squad

Other internationals

Club honours

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