Saints coach Dickens pleased with new-look centre pairing

Nafi Tuitavake has impressed for Saints in recent weeks (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Nafi Tuitavake has impressed for Saints in recent weeks (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Saints assistant coach Alan Dickens is happy with how the recent centre partnership has been performing.

Harry Mallinder has started at 12 and Nafi Tuitavake at 13 for the past three games.

Harry Mallinder has scored two tries in his past two matches

Harry Mallinder has scored two tries in his past two matches

Mallinder was on the scoresheet in both Anglo-Welsh Cup matches, at Leicester and, most recently, in last Friday's 50-10 home win against Scarlets.

And with Luther Burrell, JJ Hanrahan, George Pisi and Tom Stephenson out injured, Mallinder and Tuitavake could again pair up in the huge Aviva Premiership game at Bath on Friday night.

"I thought they played pretty well against Scarlets," Dickens said.

"They are showing confidence and Nafi links well with the back three when they're coming into the line.

"It was pleasing and we've got some good players - throw Luther in there when he comes back from his ankle injury.

"They've done well the past two weeks."

Burrell has been forced to wear a protective boot after suffering an ankle injury in the build-up to the defeat at Leicester on January 28.

And Dickens said: "Luther went over on it last week before the Leicester game.

"Hopefully it's not too bad and we see him back pretty soon.

"Boots are there for a reason, to protect his ankle, take the weight off it and make sure he's not putting it under undue stress."

Samoan centre Pisi has been missing since suffering a shoulder injury in the defeat to Leinster in Dublin in December.

And Dickens said: "He's not back training just yet.

"But I've spoken to him and he's pretty positive."

Saints saw full-back Ahsee Tuala forced off late on against Scarlets last Friday and Jim Mallinder's men were forced to play the final couple of minutes with 14 players as JP Estelles wasn't able to enter the action.

Dickens explained: "Ace was just cramping up, nothing serious.

"We were unfortunate that JP just tweaked something in the warm-up with 20 minutes to go and wasn't able to come on."

With the game at Bath on Friday so crucial, Saints will be keen to have as many of their players available as possible.

And there is good news on flanker Calum Clark, who could be involved after recovering from a knee injury suffered in Dublin in December.

"He is close," Dickens said.

"He's pushed himself hard in training and isn't too far off."

Sixth-placed Saints are five points behind fourth-placed Bath in the Aviva Premiership table.

And that makes Friday night's clash at The Rec a big game for both sides.

"It will be a tough game on Friday," Dickens said.

"We know we need to go down there and hopefully get the result we desire."