Bedford Blues will be bidding a fond farewell to two crowd favourites this summer as Jarad Williams and Mark Flanagan confirmed that they are leaving the club.

Number 8 Williams, 29, will be heading north with his wife and their baby, which is due in May, while second rower Flanagan, also 29, has decided to hang up his boots and return home to his native Ireland.

Speaking about the departures, Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: “I’m sure that everyone associated with Bedford Blues will join me in thanking Jarad and Mark for all of their efforts for the club and wish them both the very best of luck with the next stages of their careers. Both have been remarkable stalwarts both on and off the pitch and it has been a pleasure to have them with us.”

Williams, who joined the Blues in 2017 from Doncaster Knights, has been in sensational form since day one at Goldington Road. With 50 Blues appearances to his name, Jarad has also contributed big hits, great runs, 15 tries, man-of-the-match displays and the Followers Player of the Season Award.

Speaking after training on Thursday night, Williams said: “It’s been a tough decision to make but it is one that I have made for my family. My wife has followed me around while I played rugby for many years, but we’d always agreed that we’d look to settle down either in South Wales or up north and the time is now right. I’ve not signed for another club and the truth is that I’m probably going to have to get a real job once we are settled.

“I’ve had an amazing time at Bedford Blues and I really cannot thank Mike enough for everything that he has done for me. He’s not someone who looks to ‘coach’ you, he knows what you are capable of and encourages you to play to those strengths and just do what you do best. It has meant that I’ve played some of my best ever rugby over the last two seasons and I will be forever grateful for that.

“I also want  to say a huge thank you to the Blues fans. Goldington Road is an amazing place  to play with some of the biggest crowds in the Championship and it all has an impact on those of us on the field. The fans have been so vocal and really provided us with that extra push when we needed it and I will really miss them.”

Flanagan has been enjoying a hugely successful stint a Goldington Road which sandwiched a stint with Premiership champions Saracens. The cousin of Irish international Devin Toner, Flanagan began his professional rugby career at Leinster, coming through the club’s academy before making nine senior appearances for the Irish province. After a spell for French Pro D2 side Stade Montois, the second row moved to Bedford in 2015 before heading to Saracens. The 6ft 7ins lock also represented Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 levels, playing in the 2009/10 U20’s World Championship campaign as well as the 2008/09 U20’s Six Nations.

Speaking about his decision to retire, Flanagan said: “I feel that now is the right time for me to retire from rugby and focus on my career as an engineer and the best place for me to do that is back home in Ireland.

“To say that I’ve had an amazing time playing rugby is an understatement. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with and against some of the best in the world and I wouldn’t have changed a minute. I’ve also been lucky enough to enjoy two wonderful stints at Goldington Road and being part of two amazing squads during those times.

“I’ve also had the pleasure of being coached by Mike, Martin Hynes and Alex Rae which has been great. It’s hard to put into words what a wonderful atmosphere there is for players at Goldington Road and how everyone has a spring in their step and just enjoys playing rugby. The fans also contribute massively to the whole experience and I will be sad to say goodbye to so many familiar faces at the end of the season, but I hope that everyone understands that this decision wasn’t made lightly. Thank you Bedford Blues.”

There’s still time to see both Jarad and Mark in action for the Blues at Goldington Road in the three remaining home fixtures before the season comes to an end. The Cornish Pirates pay a visit on Saturday 23rd March before we welcome Richmond on Saturday 13th April with the season finale being against Nottingham on Saturday 27th April. You can buy discounted tickets for all these fixtures online NOW!

Next Home Match

Friday 23rd August
1st XV Pre Season
Goldington Road