Scotland centre Alex Grove has committed his future to winless Aviva Premiership club Worcester Warriors by signing a contract extension.
The 26-year-old Worcester academy product’s decision to commit will be a big boost, with Dean Ryan’s side locked at the foot of the Premiership, with nine defeats in as many games.
Coveted full-back Chris Pennell has already confirmed a new deal earlier this month. And three-cap centre Grove’s decision to follow suit will be highly prized at Sixways.
Grove made his Worcester debut in 2006 and has since racked up more than 100 appearances for the club.
Grove said: “The club has clearly shown its intent by the people recruited behind the scenes. The foundations are now in place and I want to be part of things when we ultimately move up the table. The club has really shaken things up and that’s what we’ve needed.
“In the next three or four years I believe that it is achievable to become one of the top sides in the Premiership.”
Rugby director Ryan said: “I am delighted that Alex has chosen to commit to the club at a time when we are building for the future. We are looking to bring long-term success to this club and to achieve that we must ensure our best players want to be part of our journey. Alex embodies the type of player that will help us achieve our vision and this announcement is a great endorsement to the work everybody is putting in.”
On a busy day of contract news, Delon Armitage signed a two-year extension to keep him at Heineken Cup champions Toulon until 2016. The 30-year-old former London Irish full-back’s decision is almost certain to keep him out of the England reckoning.
England strictly adhere to their policy of not selecting foreign-based players, and Armitage’s decision suggests he will not be eligible for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Armitage signed a two-year deal when he joined Toulon in 2012, and told the club’s official website he is excited to stay with the club. He said: “I’m glad I’ve extended with a club where I feel good and with whom I hope to win more titles.”
Armitage’s younger brother Steffon recently extended his contract by three years, committing his long-term future to the club run by comic book magnate president Mourad Boudjellal.
Delon Armitage has won 26 caps for England, but has not played since leaving Irish for France. And this latest contract to stay in the Top 14 league will likely prolong his international exile. Elsewhere, England flanker Tom Wood heads a cast of five forwards to have signed new contracts at Northampton Saints. Lock Christian Day and fast-developing number eight Sam Dickinson have also committed their futures to the Franklin’s Gardens club. Academy products hooker Mike Haywood and back-rower Ben Nutley complete the line-up of Saints stars to have agreed new terms. Former Worcester loose forward Wood captained England’s summer tour to Argentina, with Chris Robshaw handed a break by head coach Stuart Lancaster. In three years and 70 appearances at Northampton, he has developed into a frontline Aviva Premiership force and will be a focal point of England’s drive towards Rugby World Cup 2015.
Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder said to secure new contracts so early in the season is a “big statement” from the club.
He said: “We’re delighted that all five players have signed new contracts with us. They have all grown and developed in their time with us.
“Our aim is to have as good a squad as we possibly can, and this starts with making sure we re-sign the quality players we have here already.”