England internationals Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi are to remain in the Premiership, after agreeing new deals with Northampton and Sale respectively it was announced Saturday.
Concerns have been expressed that, with Wasps and Worcester going out of business this season, the cash-strapped English game could see a huge player exodus to wealthier overseas teams following this year’s World Cup in France.
But Lawes for one has resisted the lure of a move abroad to remain a one-club man with Northampton.
The 34-year-old back-five forward has endured an injury-hit and frustrating campaign so far this season, with Lawes not having played Test rugby since leading England on their 2022 tour of Australia.
Northampton have not specified the length of the deal, but it is understood to run until the end of next season.
Lawes made his Northampton senior debut in 2007 and has gone on to make 263 appearances for the Saints.
“The club means a lot to me personally, and I wanted to stay here,” said Lawes in a Northampton statement.
“I especially didn’t want to leave at the end of a season where I have not played much, and I have not made as big a contribution as I would have wanted.”
Lawes, capped 97 times by England, has also twice toured with the British and Irish Lions — in New Zealand in 2017 and South Africa four years later.
Northampton rugby director Phil Dowson said: “Courtney is an incredible player — one of the very best in the world, whether he is playing in the second-row or at flanker.
“His international experience with England and the Lions is almost unparalleled, but off the field, he gives our group so much in terms of confidence and leadership.
“I am sure a lot of clubs over in France and Japan would have been keen to see Courtney turn out for them for the next few years,” he added.
As things stand, Rugby Football Union rules mean players based overseas are ineligible for England selection save in “exceptional circumstances”.
But Tuilagi, whose career has been blighted by injuries, will remain available for England selection after the World Cup.
His time at Manchester club Sale, who like Northampton are in this season’s Premiership semi-finals, has been marred by hamstring and Achilles problems.
But at his best the powerful centre, capped 51 times by England, can still be an influential figure.
“My family and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to stay up north for another year,” Tuilagi said.
“It was an easy decision. I love coming to work every day and I couldn’t ask for a better environment on and off the pitch.”
Sale boss Alex Sanderson added: “This deal says so much about this club and what we’re building, but it says more about Manu the man.”