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Northampton sign legend's son to add a 'massive physical presence'

Soane Tonga'uiha in action with Northampton in 2012 (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Northampton have confirmed the eight youngsters who will join the club’s senior academy in 2024/25, a list that includes the son of a Saints legend.

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Former Tonga international Soane Tonga’uiha spent seven seasons at Franklin’s Gardens, the giant marrying his power to a reputation for mobile, aggressive ball-carrying.

Having moved to England to join Bedford, he linked up with Northampton in 2006 and went on to make nearly 200 appearances for the club before exiting in 2013 and playing for Racing, Oyonnax, Bristol, and Ampthill.

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He was back at Franklin’s last Saturday for the on-pitch presentation at the Gloucester game to his son Sonny after the aspiring prop was signed for the club’s senior academy having started for their Premiership academy U18s in their final earlier this year versus Bath at Kingsholm.

Sonny joined the club’s academy at U14s level and has been involved in a handful of England camps over the last two seasons.

A statement read: “Aiden Ainsworth-Cave, Tom Dye, Louis Haley, Billy Pasco, Ollie Scola, Sonny Tonga’uiha, Jonny Weimann, and Rafe Witheat will all join in the summer after signing their first professional contracts.

“All eight players starred for Saints’ U18 side this season, as Northampton reached a third successive Premiership Rugby Academy League final.

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“Meanwhile Ainsworth-Cave, Weimann, Dye, and Witheat all also represented England at U18s level during this year’s Six Nations Festival.”

Academy coach Charlie Reed said: “Sonny is a massive physical presence on the pitch, but he’s also someone who has worked extremely hard off of the pitch in order to get himself in the best physical condition possible to go and play.

“Sonny is a great long-term project for us, and someone who has got real potential to kick on.

“We believe the senior academy signings all have what it takes to play at the very highest level eventually, but for now they have to focus on adapting to training every day.

“They all have a fantastic attitude, and are supportive of each other – I have no doubt they will be pushing each other to get better next season and beyond.”

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Jon 1 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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