Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton Saints have revealed that Tom Stephenson has signed a full contract with the club which will keep at Franklins Gardens for two more years.
The 18-year-old centre is the second member of the Saints Senior Academy to agree terms with the club, with his two-year deal coming into effect at the start of the 2013/14 season.
Stephenson is regarded at Franklin's Gardens as a bright prospect. A regular in the Northampton second team, the Wanderers, throughout his ‘A'-Levels, the Moulton College graduate has also captained England Under-18s and in September was selected in the 2012/13 England Under-20 Elite Player Squad.
This season he has started every Wanderers Aviva ‘A' League Northern Conference match, helping the team achieve a home semi-final when the competition resumes in December.
Stephenson says that he is thoroughly enjoying his time at Franklin's Gardens.
"It's been a good couple of months," he said, "especially now that pre-season's done and we're into playing games! I've been concentrating on getting my head down and it's been enjoyable to be part of winning team in the Aviva ‘A' League."
Stephenson also says that playing for the Wanderers while still in the Junior Academy helped him prepare for the rigours of full-time rugby, adding: "Playing adult rugby through my ‘A'-Levels meant that it wasn't as big a shock to system at the start to the season.
"I'm still a young player with a lot to learn and I'm looking to develop over several years, not just short term. I want to push hard and hopefully get an opportunity in LV Cup.
"I've certainly learnt that working hard pays off – if you work hard someone will notice!"
Director of rugby Jim Mallinder is delighted that Stephenson has put pen to paper to stay with the club.
"Tom is an exciting young player who is coming along well," he said. "Physically he is showing the benefits of having been a part of our long-term athlete development programme, and he is building on that by improving his overall game understanding as well.
"He has impressed us with his attitude in training and in how he has played for the Wanderers and Academy teams. We're certainly very happy that he has chosen to sign a full contract with us, and all of the coaches are looking forward to seeing him develop over the next few years."