Saints sign up England Under-21 centre

Northampton Saints have signed former Leicester Tigers centre and England U21 captain Matt Cornwell ahead of the 2010/11 season.

The centre will arrive at Franklin’s Gardens during the summer for the Heineken Cup, Guinness Premiership and LV= Cup campaigns.

Cornwell, 25, already has plenty of Heineken Cup and Guinness Premiership experience from his formative years at Leicester Tigers.

After graduating from the Tigers Academy the centre made 41 first team appearances before joining Exeter Chiefs in 2008.

Cornwell also has proven leadership skills, having captained England Under-21 to their 2006 Grand Slam and in the Under-21 World Cup, the Tigers Development team to the 2006 ‘A’ League title and the Leicester first team in an Anglo-Welsh Cup match at Franklin’s Gardens in 2006/07.

He is looking forward to proving himself back in the top flight of English club rugby.

“Plenty of players want to be at Northampton and I’m lucky to have the opportunity to prove myself there,” said Cornwell.

“It’s a forward thinking club and to get back with a Premiership outfit is an important thing for me. I want to be involved as much as possible and to offer something on and off the pitch. It’s certainly what I want to do.

“It also means that I’m moving back to the Midlands, where a lot of my family are based, but that is just an added perk!

“I’ve enjoyed my time at Exeter and believe that playing in the Championship has been good for my development. As many people at the Saints know, it’s a relentless league with some challenging sides and tough places to play.

I’ve learned from the hard graft and want to put it into practice in the Premiership with the Saints.”

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that Cornwell will be a useful addition to the Saints squad next season.

“Matt is still a young man but already has a lot of experience,” the Saints boss said.

“He is a powerful runner, a strong defender and someone who can bring the other players around him into the game with some intelligent play and good handling skills.

“He is also hungry to succeed in the top flight and this will be important as the players push each other for a place in the first team next season.”

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