Clarke staying at Franklin’s Gardens

Jon Clarke will remain at Franklin’s Gardens playing for Northampton Saints for the foreseeable future after signing a new contract with the club.

The 26-year-old has been a first team regular since his try-scoring debut as an Academy player in 2003, a season in which he won the Young Player of the Year award.

But it was when Clarke, who to that point had been a wing-cum-full back, moved to outside centre in 2005 that his career stepped up a gear.

As well as playing in every game that season Clarke was selected for England ‘A’, an honour repeated last weekend when he was included on the England Saxons bench against Ireland ‘A’.

This season Clarke, who was part of the Saints team that won the European Challenge cup last May, has been back to his best. His 18 appearances thus far have yielded six tries – two in the Heineken Cup and four in the Guinness Premiership, which sees Clarke fourth in the league’s try scoring table.

Having been at the Saints for six-and-a-half years, Clarke says that it was an easy decision to sign another contract with the club.

“I always wanted to stay at Northampton,” he said. “I’m glad to get the deal done. It’s good to know your future and it’s good to know that I’ll be at a decent club that’s going somewhere.”

“Jim and Dorian are staying as well so we’ll have good coaches and a bit of continuity. I’m looking forward to the next couple of years and hopefully I can keep playing to a decent standard and be in the starting team.

“This year is massive for us. We’re top four in the Guinness Premiership and in every competition. I’m fortunate to be playing. Everyone’s excited and proud of what’s going on. But we’ve got a long way to go and will have to up our game. But we’re enjoying it and it’s good.

“A lot of the guys are signing on again and I don’t know why we can’t continue to move forward. We are setting our own standards and there’s no point getting to this point if we think we can have a jolly next year.”

“We don’t want that and the Saints fans don’t want that. We owe them as well. They turn up and fill the stadium. This town is proud of its rugby and I’m proud to play here.”

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that Clarke still has plenty of good years in front of him at Franklin’s Gardens.

“Jon is an excellent player in both attack and defence,” the Saints boss said.

“He always asks questions of the opposition when he gets the ball in his hands and has the superb ability of being able to defend and win the ball back for us in the tackle.

“Jon has been around for a long time and it is easy to forget that he is still in his mid-twenties. “

“So there is no reason why he cannot keep improving, both physically and in his understanding of the game, and continue to be a big player for us in the years to come.”

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