Saints see Francis as a centre, says Gaffney

Piers Francis has started the past two matches at inside centre, with Stephen Myler at fly-half (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Piers Francis has started the past two matches at inside centre, with Stephen Myler at fly-half (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney says Saints now see Piers Francis as an inside centre, rather than a fly-half.

Francis was brought to Northampton last summer from Super Rugby side the Blues.

He spent time with England before moving to Saints, enjoying success at centre on the two-Test tour of Argentina.

But Jim Mallinder always insisted Francis was signed to compete for the No.10 shirt.

And although he made his debut at No.12 in a game against Gloucester and lined up against Saracens in the same role eight days later, he was soon switched to fly-half.

Francis made his next 11 starts in the No.10 shirt before being given the nod at inside centre for the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final at Bath earlier this month.

Stephen Myler was at fly-half on that occasion, and the same selection was made for the trip to Newcastle Falcons on Saturday.

Saints performed creditably in those games, suffering narrow defeats on both occasions.

And Francis can now expect to retain the 12 shirt under Gaffney, who will exit Saints at the end of the season.

"We've seen that Piers' favourite position is 12 over 10," Gaffney said.

"He probably would prefer the 12 position and we much prefer him there - we identified that very early in the piece but unfortunately with injuries and whatever it was at the time, we had to play him at 10 a few times.

"Now he's settled into the 12 spot and he's playing pretty well.

"He is a good defender.

"Piers is stepping up a lot more and taking more control.

"He knows the areas where we want him to develop."