Saints star Foden looks to keep Tuala on his toes

Ben Foden believes he still has plenty to offer at full-back (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Ben Foden believes he still has plenty to offer at full-back (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

As it stands, you have to feel the name on the back of the Saints 15 shirt next season will be that of Ahsee Tuala.

The Samoan full-back was in fantastic form last season, scooping the club’s breakthrough player of the year award.

Ben Foden and Ahsee Tuala worked well together last season

Ben Foden and Ahsee Tuala worked well together last season

Tuala had, of course, joined Saints back in February 2015, but the 2016/17 campaign was when he truly made his mark in Northampton.

He became a fixture at 15, ensuring Ben Foden would be forced to strut his struff out wide.

But though Foden is more than happy to wing it, he is determined to still give Tuala a run for his money at full-back next season.

“I play where I’m told. If I can help the team in any way, I will,” Foden said.

“Hopefully I can put a bit of pressure on Ace to fill that 15 shirt and give him a bit of a hard time to keep it, but he’s been playing outstandingly well so you can’t take anything away from him.

“For me, it’s about working hard.

“I’ve got one more season next year (Foden is currently contracted until the summer of 2018) and hopefully we can push each other to be better players and take the club forward.”

Tuala’s combination with Foden and George North worked well towards the end of last season as Saints booked their place in the Champions Cup after prevailing in the play-offs.

And Foden will look forward to that challenge, as well as trying to continue his improvement on the wing.

“I’m alright with the wing, I don’t mind the wing,” said Foden, who turns 32 on Saturday.

“Sometimes a change is nice and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of learning something different and growing into the position.

“I think I can still get better on the wing and get more involved in games.

“Especially playing Exeter and watching (Jack) Nowell and (Olly) Woodburn and seeing how they worked off the ball, they were never on the wings really, they were in-field looking to pick on forwards.

“That’s something we can do as wingers is go and look for work inside and try to use our footwork in tight spaces.

“I’ve enjoyed the challenge of playing wing and as long as I enjoy the game, I’ll keep playing it and keep playing wherever they want me to.

“I enjoyed last year.

“There were definitely some down times, but finishing on a high was nice so we can look forward to the new season.”

While Foden, who has played both wing and full-back for England in the past, would still love to mix it at 15, he knows he can’t take anything away from Tuala’s impressive displays.

The 27-year-old was a key reason why Saints managed to improve their attacking game towards the end of last season, scoring four tries in his final seven appearances of the campaign.

And Foden said: “He’s been great.

“What they like about him is his attacking threat. He wants to run the ball back, he wants to take on defenders and that’s what you want from a 15.

“It’s probably something I let go from my game last season. I was probably a bit more safe and was playing the kicking options a bit more.

“It’s something I’ll look to work on more, counter-attacking, looking for those abilities to take on forwards, spot chances, back myself and hopefully you’ll see a lot more from me in the season to come.”