All Blacks centurian Owen Franks will head to the capital to continue his distinguished rugby career next year after signing for the Hurricanes.
He made 24 appearances for Northampton Saints and departs Franklin’s Gardens to pursue a playing opportunity back home with Super Rugby franchise, the Hurricanes.
The 33-year-old is returning to New Zealand on a two-year deal which will re-start a highly successful Super Rugby career which ended in 2019 after he helped the Crusaders beat the Jaguares in the final.
After leaving New Zealand, the two-time Rugby World Cup champion, who played 108 tests for the All Blacks moved to England to take up a contract with Northampton.
Unfortunately his time in the United Kingdom coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic which seriously disrupted competitions in the northern hemisphere.
“I’m excited to be getting back into Super Rugby next year with the Hurricanes after time in the UK,” Franks said.
“My family and I are looking forward to a new challenge and being back in New Zealand and closer to friends and family is also important. I am very motivated to play at the highest level again and I am looking forward to working with the Hurricanes players and coaching teams and pushing for success in 2022 and 2023.”
Franks’ return to New Zealand comes on the back of news this month that former All Blacks lock Dominic Bird will also be joining the Hurricanes after a successful stint in France while captain Dane Coles also re-committed to his only club for a further two seasons.
Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland was naturally delighted to have a player of Franks’ calibre and experience joining the squad.
“His record speaks for itself and what he has been able to achieve is a measure of his quality and professionalism,” Holland said.
“Owen’s experience will be invaluable, not just for the younger players in our squad but our group as a whole.”
“The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but even more so for those living a long way from their family and close friends – I know that first hand,” said Saints’ Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd.
“So, while of course we are disappointed to see Owen leave Northampton, we understand his decision to return to New Zealand with his family, and did not want to stand in his way.
“I want to thank Owen for everything he has done as a Saint; his playing time this season has unfortunately been limited due to injury, but he remains a consummate professional and his experience has been invaluable around our young group – particularly amongst our front rowers – so we wish him the best for the future.”
Franks added: “It was an honour for me to pull on a Northampton jersey and to test myself at the very highest level of Northern Hemisphere rugby.
“It has obviously been a challenging year in light of the pandemic, and also picking up a foot injury, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Saint – particularly competing in Europe and getting the opportunity to play alongside my brother, Ben, one last time.
“I wish the Club every success in the future but this is the right time for me to move on.”