Phil Dowson to retire before assuming coaching role with Northampton
Worcester flanker Phil Dowson will retire at the end of the season to join Northampton's coaching staff, with Saints bosses backing rugby director Jim Mallinder's stewardship.
Former Northampton back-rower Dowson will return to Franklin's Gardens this summer as an assistant coach, filling the role vacated by Alex King in October.
Northampton sit eighth in the Aviva Premiership table following a 46-31 loss at Newcastle, having finished bottom of their pool in the European Champions Cup.
A new-look coaching line-up including former Saints favourite Dowson leaves Mallinder in control, however, with Dorian West remaining as forwards coach, Alan Dickens running the attack and Mark Hopley supervising defence.
"We believe we have a strong, stable and committed group of coaches that will take the team forward next season," said rugby director Mallinder.
"The first half of the current season was not what we wanted it to be, but since Christmas we have been playing some good rugby in all competitions, scoring tries and being very competitive in every game.
"Dorian, Alan and Mark have a strong working relationship and we are seeing the benefits of that on the pitch.
"Alan's qualities were recognised last season when he helped England Saxons to a 2-0 series win over the Emerging Springboks, Mark deserves his opportunity at this level after his excellent work with our senior academy over a number of years and the first team in the past few months, and both of them have achieved the highest possible level of coaching qualifications with the RFU.
"Stability is a hallmark of many successful teams, but it is also good to freshen things up and we're delighted to be welcoming Phil Dowson back to the club.
"Phil has been a leader throughout his playing career, whether at Newcastle, here at the Saints, or with the England Saxons, and played a key role in establishing the culture that took us to the top of the Aviva Premiership.
"He was always a coach on the field and we know that he will have the respect of the players. He's had a great playing career and has everything it takes to be a successful coach, too."
Dowson spent eight years at Newcastle before switching to Northampton in 2009, helping the Saints land the Premiership title in 2014.
The 35-year-old has spent the last two years at Worcester, and admitted he was excited ahead of his Northampton return.
"The Saints was where I enjoyed most of my success as a player, and in my six years there we were competing in semi-finals and finals each season," said Dowson.
"So while I'm sad to be retiring this is a great opportunity to get involved with the club that I love.
"I obviously know Jim, Dorian, Alan and Mark really well, and how the club works, and this will be a massive help as I make the transition into the next stage of my career onto what will be a steep learning curve.
"Franklin's Gardens is a special place, and throughout the club - players, coaches, staff, ownership and supporters - everyone wants the Saints to be successful.
"It's a strong club with strong values and culture, and I'm looking forward to getting on the other side of the fence and helping the players get better and to achieve things."