Saints sign George Smith

Saints sign George Smith

Northampton Saints’ Director of Rugby Phil Dowson believes that new recruit George Smith’s physicality can be a real point of difference, after adding the towering forward to his squad ahead of the 2024/25 season.

The 6ft 8in tall lock teamed up with the men in Black, Green and Gold in the final months of the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership title-winning season, having arrived from the NFL Player Pathway programme in the USA.

Smith, who previously played for Coventry in the Championship, impressed the coaching team during his period at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens and Dowson is looking forward to having the 138kg second row available for selection next term.

“George’s superpower is that he is 6ft 8in and he can move really quickly,” he said. “The guy is unbelievably physical. When he first arrived, we tested him and his power-per-kilogram scores were incredible – the best we’ve seen in years.

“He is a bright lad and got stuck in from the word go. We’ve got someone who is physical, smart and can play the game.

“George comes from a totally different background, there’s no academy history for him. He played well for Coventry in the Premiership Rugby Cup against Saracens and also scored against Gloucester.”

Smith has taken an unusual route into the top flight, having played for Frampton Cotterell RFC in South Gloucestershire from Under-9s until Colts before joining Bristol-based Old Redcliffians, who played in the fifth tier of English rugby.

During his time at Scotland Lane, the powerful lock also impressed for Somerset as they stormed their way to Twickenham Stadium before defeating Staffordshire 36-20 to lift the 2021/22 Bill Beaumont Division 2 County Championship title.

Smith stepped up into the second tier of English rugby with Coventry ahead of the 2022/23 season and extended his stay into the 2023/24 campaign.

However, in January this year, Smith decided to enter the NFL’s International Player Pathway programme at the same time as former Saintsman Harry Mallinder. But during his time in America, he was approached by Saints and teamed up with the squad in late April.

“I was out in America but it just wasn’t really for me,” said Smith. “I wanted to pursue rugby more than American Football. Shieldsy [Paul Shields, Head of Recruitment and Retention] rang me up asking if I wanted to come in, train with the boys and see if it was the right fit. It felt like home from day one.

“Everyone was really welcoming and Phil Dowson made it clear he wanted me to sign, so it was a good first few days. I don’t want to be playing anywhere else.”

“I took away a lot of things from the NFL experience. I am a much better athlete now than I was six, seven months ago. In terms of my athletic development, it was massive. It has only pushed me to become bigger, stronger and quicker.”

Smith’s integration into Saints’ squad couldn’t have come at a more exciting time as they went into the final months of the season competing on two fronts in the Investec Champions Cup and Gallagher Premiership. The experience has whet his whistle for what is to come next season.

“I have learned lots of things during my time so far with Saints,” he said. “The environment was so competitive at the time, which is what really helped me settle in really well because I love competition. It was quite easy to get stuck in with people, that was made easy because of the stage they were in, in their season with everyone wanting to get better.

“I hope my time spent with the boys and in the environment at the back end of this season will give me an advantage to hit the ground running when we return for preseason.”

Smith is Saints’ sixth confirmed new signing ahead of the 2024/25 campaign, following confirmation that Josh Kemeny, Tom West, Archie Benson, Luke Green and Fyn Brown are also joining the Club this summer.

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