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Son of ex-England flyhalf exits Northampton Saints mid-season

By Ian Cameron
Saints' James Grayson signs an autograph for fans after the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Northampton Saints and Bristol Bears at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens on October 21, 2023 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)

Northampton Saints have confirmed that fly-half James Grayson is set to depart the club after this weekend’s clash against Exeter Chiefs to pursue a playing opportunity in Japan’s Rugby League One.

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The 25-year-old No.10 leaves behind a considerable legacy at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, having made a significant impact in his 92 appearances for the Black, Green, and Gold.

During his tenure, the son of former England standoff Paul Grayson  scored nine tries and contributed an impressive 572 points off the tee, amassing a total of 617 points.

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“Without doubt this was a really difficult decision for me to make,” said Grayson. “I’ve grown up with a lot of the lads in the playing group. They’re my brothers, and it’s going to be tough to move away, but I’ll cherish every memory I made with them on and off the pitch.

“Ultimately, this is a decision driven by my desire to play more rugby, more regularly. As a professional, all you want is to be able to go out there and play on a Saturday afternoon, so I am making this move to try and further my rugby career – it is an opportunity that I felt like I couldn’t really turn down.”

Grayson’s journey with Northampton began in the summer of 2016 when he joined the senior squad after progressing through the Academy system at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens. His debut in the 2017/18 season opener against Saracens marked the beginning of a stellar career with the Saints. His outstanding contributions didn’t go unnoticed, as he clinched the Young Player of the Season award at the end of his debut campaign.

“Jimmy came to us not long ago to say an opportunity had presented itself for him to move to Japan, and we didn’t want to stand in his way,” said Saints’ Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson. “We understand why, at this point of his career, he wants to move away from Northampton in search of more regular playing time. Jimmy’s an incredibly competitive character, and wants the chance to show what he can do on the pitch more often.

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“We are confident in the cover we have at fly-half to allow Jimmy to move on. He’s been an incredible professional while he’s been in and out of the team, with an unwavering work ethic in training to help the whole squad to progress.

“He’s a popular guy within the group, he’s been a Saint since he was 12 years old, he’s done some wonderful charity work with our Foundation, and he’s Northampton through and through – so of course we wish him well moving forward for this new challenge in Japan.”

The fly-half played a crucial role in Northampton Wanderers’ back-to-back Premiership Rugby A League successes in 2017 and 2018. Simultaneously, he represented England Under-20s in both the Six Nations and World Rugby Championships during those years.

However, it was the 2018/19 season that truly catapulted Grayson into the limelight, making 18 appearances across all competitions. His standout performances earned him the Premiership Rugby Cup’s Breakthrough Player award, and he played a pivotal role in Northampton’s triumphant campaign to lift the trophy.

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Grayson’s impact continued into the 2019/20 season, where he emerged as the top scorer for the club with an impressive 142 points. His proficiency from the kicking tee saw him surpass the 500-point milestone for the Saints in April 2022. Notably, a long-range penalty in a one-point victory over Harlequins proved crucial in securing Northampton’s spot in the Premiership semi-finals that season.

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