NAME: Ali Hepher
POSITION: Head Coach
DATE OF BIRTH: 3/10/1974
JOINED CHIEFS: 2009
ABOUT ALI: As a player, Ali Hepher made his name featuring predominantly for Northampton Saints. Having initially played a few games for the U19s, he left the club to go to university in Northumbria.
However, he had only been gone for a few months when he got a call from the Saints. They had a first-team game coming up against Wakefield but had a lot of injuries and needed cover. Hepher duly stepped in to the fold, kicking a 45-metre drop-goal to tie the game and then got a penalty with the last kick to win it.
With regular playmaker Paul Grayson out injured, the Saints board and Ian McGeechan asked Hepher if he would be prepared to travel back on a regular basis, which he did, and it signalled the start of a hugely successful career for him at Franklin’s Gardens.
Winning the 2000 European Cup against Munster was the key highlight during his five-year career with the Midlanders, the same year he was called up by Sir Clive Woodward to be part of the England squad that toured South Africa.
He says: “The majority of that tour squad went on win the World Cup in 2003. Unfortunately I was just not good enough to make it into that squad, we had some quality players at the time.
But just playing in those three midweek tour games in South Africa was a fantastic experience, they did not count as England caps but it was still great.”
Hepher’s Saints career ended in 2002 when he suffered an ACL injury and he subsequently moved to Bedford as a player-coach, featuring regularly against the Chiefs in the old National League One.
He then started coaching the Northampton academy in 2006 but after three years was keen for a new challenge. He joined the Chiefs that year and quickly had an impact, working alongside Rob Baxter in guiding the Devon club into the Premiership for the first time in the club’s history.
In the years that have followed, Hepher has played an integral part in driving the Chiefs onwards and upwards. In the summer of 2016, he headed up the England Saxons coaching team on their South African tour, while ahead of the 2017/18 season he took on the new title of Head Coach with the Chiefs.