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Franks to leave Crusaders for Northampton

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All Blacks and Crusaders prop Owen Franks has confirmed that he will leave New Zealand rugby and join English club Northampton Saints.

Thirty-one-year-old Franks will join his older brother Ben Franks at the end of the 2019 season in Northampton.

“The Crusaders, All Blacks and Canterbury Rugby have been a big part of my life, and my family’s lives, for more than a decade now, and I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had to live my dream in those jerseys,” Franks said.

“New Zealand will always be home, but Northampton presents a great opportunity for me to test myself in a new rugby environment, and reconnect with family there.

“While I know I’ll look back at the end of my time in New Zealand with an immense amount of pride, I still have a lot I want to achieve this year and some big goals to tick off before I leave.”

Franks made his provincial debut in 2007, and went on to make his Super Rugby debut in 2009 when the Crusaders hosted the Western Force. His Test debut followed that same year, against Italy in Christchurch.

The inspirational tighthead prop became just the 13th Crusader to reach 100 caps for the club in 2015, and this season is set to surpass 150 Super Rugby appearances. He is the third most capped Crusader of all time, behind Wyatt Crockett (203) and Corey Flynn (151).

Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge said: “Owen is a huge part of the fabric of the Crusaders, and continues to set the standard for front rowers worldwide. Despite all that he has achieved, Owen remains a humble competitor, and driven to achieve more – so it comes as no surprise to us that he has decided to pursue a new rugby challenge at the end of the year.

“Fortunately, we will have one final season with Owen in 2019, but we wish him and his family all the very best for their next chapter.”

Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson added: “Owen is the ultimate professional. His preparation and work ethic is unparalleled, and he trains tirelessly to be the best in his position.

“He is what we hope every young prop coming through the Crusaders region aspires to be like, and we look forward to a huge 2019 season alongside him.”

Canterbury Rugby CEO Tony Smail said: “On behalf of Canterbury Rugby, we thank Owen for his loyalty to the red and black jersey since making his debut back in 2007. We’re proud of all he has gone on to achieve in New Zealand throughout his rugby career and congratulate him on the legacy he’ll leave at every level of the game.”

Franks became an All Blacks centurion during the 2018 Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Auckland, and currently has 106 caps to his name. As well as winning the last two Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he has won two Rugby World Cup titles, in 2011 and 2015.

NZR CEO Steve Tew said: “Owen set the standard for professional players in his unwavering commitment to preparation and playing the game at the highest level. While he will be with us for one more season, now is the opportunity to acknowledge everything he has done for the game.

“He was the third youngest prop to ever pull on the All Blacks jersey, a testament to his drive and dedication from an early age, and is one of just nine All Blacks centurions. It’s that consistency as well as his quiet, no-nonsense approach to the game that fans love about Owie and he will leave our shores as an All Blacks legend.

“We wish him all the best in his final season with us.”

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen added: “Owie is one of the most professional players I’ve had the privilege of coaching. The standards he sets for himself — and others — are exemplary.

“His unbelievable commitment to his preparation, on-field and gym training, diet and his game is there for all to see, and inspires others. He has done this from the first time he made the All Blacks in 2009, has continued that throughout his whole career, and his achievement in reaching 106 Tests to date reflects that.

“We wish Owen, wife Emma and their family all the very best when their new adventure starts next year.”

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