Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning Assistant Coach/Player and England Roses Captain) and Lewis Ludlam Northampton Saints player

Loughborough Lightning to join forces with Northampton Saints

Loughborough Lightning Rugby are delighted to announce an innovative new partnership with Northampton Saints.

The new arrangement sees Loughborough Lightning – who have reached the semi-finals of the last two Allianz Premier 15s seasons – become a joint Loughborough Lightning / Northampton Saints elite women’s team, with both partners looking to drive performance outcomes to ensure ongoing success at the pinnacle of professional English rugby.

The team will remain named as Loughborough Lightning, but the side’s kit will now bear the Northampton Saints crest and Franklin’s Gardens will host several Lightning fixtures each season.

John Steele, Executive Director of Sport, Loughborough University said: “We’re thrilled to have agreed this partnership with Northampton Saints, with a pioneering arrangement that is unique in professional women’s rugby.

“Lightning and Saints both have a significant presence at the top of English rugby, and as we now work side-by-side, I’ve no doubt the new relationship will strengthen both teams as we look to win trophies and grow the game.”

The partnership between Lightning and Saints aims to continue the development of women’s rugby effective community-focused programmes across the East Midlands and beyond, while simultaneously providing career development opportunities for women looking to gain experience in and/or transition to the administrative or coaching side of the game.

“We have always said it was a question of when, and not if, the Northampton Saints were to participate at the top table of the elite women’s game,” said Mark Darbon, Saints’ Chief Executive.

“This partnership provides the perfect opportunity for us to do so, and we hope that alongside hosting a Red Roses fixture here at the Gardens later this year, this partnership will significantly help to grow the audience for women’s and girls’ rugby in the East Midlands and beyond.”

As part of the agreement, Saints will also provide additional resources to support the development of the female game, starting with the appointment of Lightning and England players Sarah Hunter and Emily Scarratt as the Club’s Women’s Rugby Ambassador.

Hunter and Scarratt will begin working with Saints immediately to develop and execute the partnership’s key objectives, particularly in helping to grow the audience for women’s rugby across the region.

“The collaboration between Loughborough Lightning and Northampton Saints is a massive step forward for the development of the women’s game. Both organisations have a long, proud history in sport, and I’m honoured to have been asked to support this initiative in an ambassador role,” said Hunter.

“We are seeing a new era of women’s rugby and being at the forefront of that change is truly exciting. By working together, we can help grow the women’s game, whether that be at a grassroots level or for those that are already on the pathway to becoming future Red Roses.”

She added: “The Premier 15s has accelerated at a huge pace and we already have one of the best leagues in the world.

“With investment such as this partnership, the league will inevitably become more competitive and attract the best talent. It’s genuinely exciting to see where the product can be in a few years.” 

For more information on Loughborough Lightning click HERE and for more information on Northampton Saints click HERE.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 21/198

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021, 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022 and 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.