Samoan ace Tuala impressing Saints boss Mallinder

Ahsee Tuala (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Ahsee Tuala (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Ahsee Tuala’s intent was clear upon arrival at Saints.

He had not flown to the other side of the world to make up the numbers.

Instead, the Samoan full-back, nicknamed Ace, wanted to make a name for himself in the Aviva Premiership.

And last weekend’s team selection showed that he is starting to do just that.

Tuala was handed his first league start in the vital fixture against Saracens.

Some may have looked at the starting 15 and presumed that James Wilson, an impressive influence on the side, was injured.

But Wilson’s presence on the bench suggested otherwise.

It suggested that Jim Mallinder had put his faith in Tuala to perform in a game that would have huge consequences on the quest to secure a top-two spot.

And the director of rugby’s faith was repaid, with Tuala, a defensive lapse or two aside, having done well in his 65 minutes on the stadium:mk turf.

After the game, Mallinder was asked whether he had wanted to give Wilson a bit more of a breather after stressful outings against Clermont and Exeter.

His reply?

“You normally pick your best team that you think is capable of winning the game at the weekend and that’s what we did,” Mallinder said.

That will be music to the ears of Tuala, who has left his young family back in New Zealand, where he played for Counties Manukau in the ITM Cup.

He is clearly missing his wife and children but, with fellow Samoans Ken Pisi, George Pisi and Kahn Fotuali’i around, he is making Northampton a home from home.

And he is making the impression he desired when arriving as injury cover for Ben Foden back in February.

“He was very good,” said Mallinder of the display in the 25-20 win against Saracens.

“He cramped up a bit towards the end, which is not surprising with the amount of running he was doing.

“He kicked well and he was a very good, solid presence for us.”

Tuala, whose original Saints shirt was the size of England prop Alex Corbisiero’s, has worked on his fitness and worked on his game.

He scored two tries - one of which was particularly eye-catching - in the win against Wasps at the end of March.

And is now ready to help Saints push on to claim the title.

If he can continue do that, he could just get the contract he has dreamed of.