Tuala so happy to be staying at Saints

Ahsee Tuala has signed a new deal at Saints (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Ahsee Tuala has signed a new deal at Saints (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Saints may not have provided their supporters with too many reasons to be positive of late, but this week's announcement of Ahsee Tuala's contract renewal should be one.

Tuala has extended his deal until 2020, having developed into a fine player since arriving at Franklin's Gardens as injury dispensation for Ben Foden in February 2015.

Back then, the Samoan was a short-term fix.

He was handed a deal until the end of the 2014/15 campaign but after making an immediate impact, scoring on his debut, his went on to show his worth.

He was offered a more permanent contract and has continued to grow - or should that be shrink? - into the Saints full-back shirt.

The bearded, slightly portly figure that arrived from New Zealand outfit Counties Manukau Steelers has slimmed down and sped up since arriving at Northampton.

And now he is a key member of the squad, as shown by Saints' desire to keep hold of him for an extra two years.

"I'm really stoked," said the 28-year-old.

"The opportunity came around to stay, my family and I spoke about it and we really wanted to be here for the next couple of years.

"We're all settled and my kids enjoy it here.

"It was a no brainer."

On his personal improvement, Tuala, who won Saints' breakthrough player of the year award at the end of last season, said: "I've learned so much being here with the Saints.

"I'm still learning as well, but I've learned a lot about myself.

"Nutrition and that sort of stuff has improved because I came here quite heavy, but I worked my way down and I'm just enjoying my footy now.

"It was different back home and I've learned from the nutritionists and the S&C (strength and conditioning) coaches, who have really helped me out during the past couple of years.

"It's still a bit of a work-on, but I'm in a lot better nick than I was before.

"I definitely cook more now and we cook a bit of traditional Island food, which isn't the best, but it tastes good to us.

"I try to work around that sort of stuff and it's getting better."

So how much of a culture shock was it to be parachuted into the Premiership, Champions Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup two and a half years ago?

"I kind of expected it," said Tuala.

"I spoke to Kenny (Pisi) before I came over and he gave me the rundown on what goes on here.

"I felt like I was at home.

"Saints made me really welcome and the support of the fans really helped as well.

"It was massive for me to see how this stadium can be when it's packed out."

Tuala's move was a brave one, especially as his family couldn't come over to England until prior to the 2015/16 season.

"It was quite difficult, just because I didn't know what was going to happen after that season," he said.

"I just came over to cover for Fodes and took it week by week.

"I did the best I could every week and I was grateful for the opportunity.

"We're settled here now and I'm enjoying it.

"It was tough going away on my own, especially with my daughter having been born a couple of months before I came over.

"But with the help of the club and the Pisi brothers, they helped me out really good."

Tuala is now competing with Harry Mallinder for the full-back spot.

"A big target for me last year was to cement myself either at 15 or on the wing," he said.

"I wanted to get a starting role and I don't really mind where I play.

"I just really want to be in the 15 and push the other players.

"I do feel more confident now with the help of the other boys in the back three.

"Fodes, George North and Kenny have been really helpful.

"I'm still improving in little areas.

"Defence is one of my biggest work-ons and I'm always working on that."

Tuala is not the only one who is seeking improvement as Saints look to turn things around after losing eight of their past nine matches in all competitions.

They host Ospreys in a Champions Cup clash at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday evening.

And Tuala said: "It's tough at the moment.

"But, as a unit, we're strong and we can get out of this run.

"We want to put in a performance we're proud of and we'll do the best we can."

Tuala can now go into games knowing his future is sorted.

And he said: "It does make a difference.

"It was in the back of my mind on the Samoa tour, but now it's settled I can really focus on the rugby and putting in a performance."