Northampton sign Hodgson

Northampton Saints have added to their squad for next season with the signing of half-back Joel Hodgson from Newcastle Falcons.

The 21-year-old is comfortable in both half-back positions, but is heading to Franklin's Gardens as a scrum-half, a position in which he represented England Under-18s while a student at Newcastle's Royal Grammar School.He experienced Aviva Premiership, LV= Cup, Championship and European rugby while at Kingston Park, and director of rugby Jim Mallinder believes he can add competition in the Saints' scrum-half roster."Scrum-half is a specialist position where you need a lot of depth, especially when you have the likes of Kahn Fotuali'i and Lee Dickson away regularly with Samoa and England," said Mallinder.

"Joel is a talented young English player, and he will provide stiff competition for Alex Day, who himself won the Junior World Championships with England just 12 months ago."We certainly view Joel as a player who has a lot of potential and we're looking forward to seeing him develop at Franklin's Gardens."Hodgson said: "The Saints has been one of the top clubs in the Aviva Premiership for a number of years and it is an exciting place to be right now.

"I'm under no illusions that it is going to be a steep development curve for me, but having players like Kahn Fotuali'i, Lee Dickson and Stephen Myler at the club means that I'm going to be learning from some of the best half-backs in the country."I'd like to thank everyone at Newcastle for everything they've done for me over the past few years.

"I grew up supporting the Falcons and to wear the first team shirt was a real privilege. Leaving Kingston Park and the friends and supporters I have at the Falcons will be a wrench for me, but I believe that the move to Northampton is in the best interests of my long-term career."