Fly-half James Grayson will depart Northampton Saints following this weekend’s match against Exeter Chiefs to pursue a playing opportunity in Japan, the Club can today confirm.
The 25-year-old No.10 made 92 appearances in total for the men in Black, Green and Gold, scoring nine tries along the way and kicking a further 572 points off the tee, for a total of 617.
Grayson will leave cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens to play in Japan’s Rugby League One, but not before saying a fond farewell to Saints supporters on the pitch at half-time of this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership clash against Exeter.
“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.
“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.”
Grayson joined Saints’ senior squad in the summer of 2016 after progressing through the Academy system at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, making his Northampton debut in the 2017/18 season opener against Saracens and winning the Club’s Young Player of the Season award at the end of that campaign.
He helped steer Northampton Wanderers to back-to-back Premiership Rugby A League successes in 2017 and 2018, while also representing England Under-20s both years in the Six Nations and World Rugby Championships.
But it was during the 2018/19 campaign that Grayson really broke through into the first team, making 18 appearances in all competitions, and claiming the Premiership Rugby Cup’s Breakthrough Player award on the way to helping Northampton lift the trophy.
He top-scored for the Club during the 2019/20 season with 142 points, and his ability from the kicking tee saw him pass 500 points for Saints in April 2022 – bringing up the milestone with a long-range penalty in a one-point victory over Harlequins, which proved crucial in Northampton qualifying for the Premiership semi-finals that term.
“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.
“Saints has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I joined the Academy at 12 years old, but even before that I was a ball boy and obviously was coming down to the Gardens regularly to watch my dad play, so Northampton will always be home for me.
“Whenever I have stepped onto the pitch at the Gardens, I’ve felt like I’ve had the backing of the Saints supporters, and I’ll be forever grateful for the way that they took me in.
“I want to thank the Club for allowing me to make this move away at a time that is right for me. I also want to thank everyone – the coaches, the medical staff, the strength and conditioning staff, and so on – for all the investment they made in me over the last seven years. I feel like I have grown from a boy into a man in that time, and they’ve all played a huge role in making me a better player and a better person.
“I also have to say ‘thank you’ to my family and my partner, Jess. They’ve been with me all the way, as emotionally I’ve dealt with the highs and the lows of professional sport, and I would not be able to do it without them.”