Foden top of Saints' signings
Northampton Saints announced that five first team backs have put pen to paper on new contracts to stay at Franklin's Gardens.
The group includes three current internationals, another England Elite Player Squad member, and a former England Under-20 player.
Over the past few seasons Ben Foden has established himself as one of the best full backs in England. The 28-year-old is in his sixth season at Franklin's Gardens, with 132 first team appearances and 35 tries to his name, along with an Amlin Challenge Cup winners' medal and appearances in the 2011 Heineken Cup and 2013 Aviva Premiership finals. Foden has 34 England caps, having made his full debut during the 2009 Six Nations.
Lee Dickson is another player who has risen to full international status during his time in the East Midlands. The scrum-half, 28, also joined the Saints in 2008 and passed the 150-appearance mark earlier this season. An Amlin Challenge Cup and LV= Cup winner, Dickson was an England Saxon when he arrived from Newcastle, but in 2012 his consistency of form was rewarded with a full cap. He has gone on to make 12 appearances for England, including starting all three of the 2013 Autumn Internationals.
Centre Luther Burrell has been earmarked for full England honours by many commentators this season after putting in one powerful performance after another during this calendar year. His form towards the end of the 2012/13 season saw him earn a call-up to the summer tour of Argentina, with an additional selection into England's Elite Player Squad for the Autumn Internationals. Burrell, who turned 26 last week, joined the Saints from Sale Sharks in the summer of 2012.
Samoan Ken Pisi, 24, added to his tally of international caps during the recent Autumn Internationals. Another player to be in his second season at Franklin's Gardens, Pisi, who led the club's stats for metres made, defenders beaten and carries in 2012/13, is an IRB Junior World Championship winner with New Zealand and took the IRB World Sevens Series by storm before putting pen to paper with the Saints.
The final player, Jamie Elliott, is a product of the Saints Academy system who has become one of the form wingers in the Aviva Premiership. Still just 21 years of age, Elliott's 11 tries in 2012/13 saw him as both the Saints' leading try scorer and the Young Player of the Season, not to mention a place on the shortlist for the LV= Breakthrough Award. A former student at Bedford School, Elliott helped England Under-20 to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2011, scoring tries against Wales and France, and he hit the 50-appearance mark in the black, green and gold in December 2013.
Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder says that retaining this type of attacking talent is crucial if the club is to succeed in the future.
"We're delighted that all five players have signed new contracts with us," he commented.
"They have all come a long way in their time with us and are recognised as being some of the best players in their positions in the country, and retaining all of them was one of our main priorities.
"It is important that we have a group of quality players who understand our culture and what we are trying to achieve, and Ben, Lee, Luther, Ken and Jamie all fit into that category."