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Northampton sign Karl Wilkins from Pro D2

By Sam Smith
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Northampton have confirmed the signing of Ipswich-born flanker Karl Wilkins from Beziers. The 24-year-old has made over 50 appearances for the French Pro D2 side since arriving from Clermont in 2016. Experienced at lock as well as in the back row, Wilkins initially left for France aged 18.

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Wilkins joined Montferrand from the Saints academy system where he was part of the Northampton squad that won the Premiership’s U18 Academy League in the 2013/14 season playing alongside the likes of Harry Mallinder, George Furbank, Lewis Ludlam, Rory Hutchinson and James Fish.

The 6ft 4in, 112kg forward will return to Franklin’s Gardens ahead of the start of the 2021/22 season, and Wilkins is relishing the prospect of linking up with old friends at his boyhood club.

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“I’m absolutely delighted to be returning home and to get my opportunity with Northampton,” he said. “I grew up playing at Franklin’s Gardens, so I understand the culture and tradition of the club, the special atmosphere inside the stadium on a matchday and how important Saints are to the people of the town.

“It’s been fantastic to see some of the lads I played alongside in the academy take their opportunities and really kick on in recent years

“I hope when I return to the club, I can do the same and make more memories with them. The squad is already filled with talent and I can’t wait to arrive and try to develop further as a player under a really impressive group of coaches.”

Saints signed No8 Shaun Adendorff from Pro D2’s Aurillac last summer and director of rugby Chris Boyd is confident Wilkins could prove to be another hidden gem when given an opportunity in the top-flight of English rugby. He said: “Karl fits our recruitment model of young, high-potential and English perfectly.

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“We want to continue to build a squad with a backbone of local players, and while Karl has taken the road less travelled to get here, he is desperate to pull on a Saints jersey again. He is someone who can play both lock and in the back row, so Karl’s a versatile player and a great fit for our pack. I’m looking forward to seeing how far he can go within our set-up here at Franklin’s Gardens.”

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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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