Northampton sign three young rugby stars

Aviva Premiership Rugby club Northampton Saints have signed three of their current Senior Academy squad – Jamie Elliott, Ben Nutley and Mike Haywood – on two-year first team contracts.

The trio have all come through the Saints youth system to show their first team credentials this season in Aviva Premiership Rugby, the Heineken Cup and Anglo Welsh LV= Cup.

Elliott, 19, burst into the Saints first team in 2010/11 with two tries in his first two Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances against Sale Sharks and London Irish.

He went one better in his Heineken Cup debut in this season’s trip to Castres by scoring two tries, adding to the brace notched in October against Saracens in the LV= Cup.

Educated at Bedford School, Elliott – who is comfortable both in the centre and on the wing – helped England Under-20 win a Grand Slam earlier in the year and was selected in the Under-20 Elite Player Squad at the start of this season.

Nutley is another 19-year-old to have grabbed the attention this season. Although he made his first team debut in 2010/11’s LV= Cup, the flanker started the first five matches of the current Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign and made his Heineken Cup debut in the trip to Castres.

Like Elliott, Luton-born Nutley – educated at the Saints partner college Moulton College – has been included in the 2011/12 England Under-20 Elite Player Squad.

Twenty-year-old Haywood has become a regular in the black, green and gold matchday 23 this season.

The Southend-born hooker, who played a major role in helping England Under-20 reach the 2011 IRB Junior World Championship final, made his Saints first team debut in this season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby opener against Gloucester.

The first member of the Eastern Counties Elite Player Development Group to have earned a first team contract, Haywood made his first start against Exeter Chiefs and has since experienced the pressure of playing in an East Midlands derby and in the Heineken Cup clashes against the Scarlets and Castres.

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that having quality players like Elliott, Nutley and Haywood all come through the Saints Academy system into the first team squad is vital for the future prosperity of the club.

“Players like Jamie, Ben and Mike are the future lifeblood of Northampton Saints,” he said.

“It is always good to have players in the squad who the fans can see as being their own having watched their development over a number of years.”

“The players themselves have grown up in the culture of the club and we have seen how vital that is to the ongoing success of other teams that have been at the top of their leagues for a number of years.

“More importantly, all three have shown that they are ready for first team rugby and have the quality to be able to compete at the highest levels of Aviva Premiership Rugby and the Heineken Cup.

“It speaks volumes for the work being done by Alan Dickens and Mark Hopley and the rest of the Academy coaches and I’m delighted that Jamie, Ben and Mike have signed full contracts with us.”

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