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Alex Coles targeting England return after signing new Northampton deal

By Josh Raisey
Alex Coles of England applauds the crowd after their victory during the Autumn International match between England and Japan at Twickenham Stadium on November 12, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Alex Coles has signed a new deal with Gallagher Premiership leaders Northampton Saints just days after making his 100th senior appearance for the club.

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The 24-year-old started in the second-row in the 21-17 win over Sale Sharks at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday as Phil Dowson’s side finished 2023 at the top of the league.

Having come through the academy, Coles made his senior Saints debut in 2018 in the Premiership Rugby Cup. Since then, he has not only made 100 appearances for the club, but has earned three caps for England too, all coming in the 2022 autumn against Argentina, Japan and South Africa. Despite not being on the Test scene for over a year now, Coles believes Northampton is the best place to help him relaunch his career with England, which was a key factor in his decision to sign the new deal.

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The versatile forward joins the likes of Sam Graham, Robbie Smith, and Fraser Dingwall in extending their stay at Franklin’s Gardens ahead of a promising 2024, which begins with a clash with second-place Exeter Chiefs on Saturday at Sandy Park.

After the new deal was announced, Coles said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be staying on with Saints. This is my boyhood Club, they spotted me out of school, have brought me through the system here since I was 14 years old, and have invested so much time and effort into making me the player that I am.

“I love playing here; it’s a proper rugby town, a Club full of tradition and history, and I feel like all the people around Northampton are so invested in us as a team – that was a big part of my decision.

“On the pitch, it feels like we have something special brewing and I wanted to make sure I am involved in that. There’s a big group of guys that I’ve grown up playing alongside, and now I really want to be part of a group that delivers success for Northampton by winning some trophies.

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“Over the last couple of years, I definitely feel like my role within the team has grown. I started out as a listener and a helper, but now I have a more senior role in leading the lineout, and with 100 games under my belt I have the experience to be able to support the squad’s other leaders with a real maturity growing now amongst this group.

“Another big part of this decision is thinking about where I would be best placed to try to get back in the England side. To do that, you have to play well and improve. The coaching here is excellent, development is a core value at the Club, and that really manifests itself when you see how much many of the players improve here as a result of the support we receive from all the staff.

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“So, I am excited about what is to come for me. I feel like there’s still a lot to get out of my game, and I’m working hard on that every single day.”

Dowson added: “We’re thrilled to keep Alex here in Northampton, as he’s grown into an incredibly important player for us. He’s a big character within the group, leading our lineout on this pitch as well as being head of the squad’s social committee off it.

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“He’s also come through our Academy system here at Saints – and we’re desperate to keep that core group, who have been playing their rugby in Black, Green and Gold since they were teenagers, together.

“Alex leads in a different way to some of the other guys in the squad, but he’s just as important in terms of the impact he has on the group.

“He can cover two positions, has worked hard to become a first-class lineout caller, and is now an England international as well. It’s his natural intelligence, his desire to get better, and his ability to influence those around him that is so important for us.

“To have played 100 senior games at 24 years old in such an attritional position, and to have been recognised on the international stage too, is very impressive – but we are sure there is still a lot more to come from him.”

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