Saints have plenty of selection options in race for No.10

With Piers Francis and Stephen Myler both fit again, it raised a few eyebrows when Harry Mallinder was handed the 10 shirt at Kingsholm last weekend.

Thursday, 12th October 2017, 7:56 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:35 am
Stephen Myler has produced classy cameos during the past two games (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Not because he had been playing badly in that position during the first five weeks of the season - far from it - but because Francis and Myler are far more experienced.

They were the duo expected to battle it out for the fly-half spot this season.

And one of them may have been expected to get it against Gloucester.

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Myler had made an impressive return to action as a replacement in the previous week’s victory against Harlequins.

And Francis’s competitive debut was much-anticipated after he recovered from the fractured jaw he picked up against Glasgow during pre-season.

But Mallinder again got the nod and he was able to grab a second-half score in the 29-24 defeat.

He landed his toughest kicks and missed the ones that he would have expected to make in a mixed outing.

Jim Mallinder has been asked about his team selection, which saw Francis step into the 12 shirt, with Luther Burrell moving to outside centre to cover for the injured Rob Horne.

And the Saints boss said: “The way we look at it is that we didn’t want to make too many changes for this weekend.

“We brought Cobus Reinach in at nine (because Nic Groom was injured) so we didn’t want to change both half-backs, particularly with Rob Horne being out this week.

“We wanted to restrict the number of changes and now we need to have some good conversations.”

Mallinder knows he must get his first 15 spot on this week with European champions Saracens coming to Franklin’s Gardens for a huge Champions Cup clash on Sunday evening.

And he added: “We’ve got some interesting combinations now.

“Piers Francis came in for his first game for us, Harry has been playing at 10 and of course Stephen Myler now back to fitness.

“We’ve got a few questions coaching wise as to what’s our best combination, but we’re lucky we’ve got some good options.”

With Groom and Horne both fit enough to face Premiership table-toppers Saracens, Saints will certainly have plenty of options this weekend.

And though they lost last weekend, spirits are still high as the club currently sits third in the Premiership standings with four wins from six matches.

“It’s a satisfactory start,” Mallinder said.

“We’re up there, we’re with the chasing group, which is where we want to be, but we still know there’s a long way to go in the season.

“Now we’ve got to refocus for Saracens at home and Clermont away. It’s exciting.”

Mallinder didn’t hide his disappointment about the Gloucester defeat, which brought an end to a four-game winning streak.

But he knows new boys Reinach and Francis provided some reasons to be positive.

“We got a point,” Mallinder quipped when asked what Saints would take from their afternoon at Kingsholm.

“Piers Francis on his debut was a positive and Cobus Reinach looked really sharp with that lovely break down the right-hand side. It could have been a try, but wasn’t on the day.

“A few positives, but overall it’s a feeling of disappointment.”