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VIDEO FEATURE – Foden on his evolution into a top-class full back

18 February 2011

  • Ben Foden on his evolution from scrum half to international full back
  • Move to Saints provided the mental freedom to play his best rugby

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Ben Foden has seen himself as a fully fledged full back for some time and after rave reviews of his nine consecutive starts at No.15 it’s obvious why.

The 25-year-old's thrilling kick returns and runs from deep have characterised England’s performances in recent times but it could be different had he stuck to his guns as a scrum half.

The Chester-born star moved from Sale Sharks to Northampton Saints with the express intention of more game-time at nine but ended up in the form of his life at 15.

Speaking to RFU sponsor Wolf Blass, Foden explained how taking ownership of the decision to play at full back gave him the mental freedom to play his best rugby.

He said: "Obviously Philippe [Saint-Andre] was right in the end overall but the thing was that the decision to make was mine not his and that was massive for me.

"And by going to Northampton Jim [Mallinder] and Westy [Dorian West] gave me that chance and that decision – I got to play scrum half and have the chances I wanted whereas Philippe was saying ‘you’re not a scrum half, you’re a full back’.

"The big thing for me was being able to take the decision myself – I can look back and think I gave it a go and gave it my all."

I had the games of my life at full back – Foden

England full back Ben Foden acrobatically catches a kick during the second Test against Australia in Sydney in 2010

Photo: Getty Images

While Foden might admit he looks at England’s leading scrum halves Ben Youngs and Danny Care with a tinge of envy he says, although he had to swallow a bit of pride, there are no regrets.

"For me I’ve always been happy just to be playing the game," he added.

"On of the reasons I started playing full back at Northampton was Jim saying to me ‘you’re playing well at scrum half but so is the other guy playing there, Lee Dickson, we’re going to rotate you four games on four games off.’

"For me as a player that wasn’t good enough so he said ‘for the four games off do you want to be on the bench covering nine or start at 15 and cover nine.’

"It was probably a clever ploy by Jim but he knew the answer before he asked me the question – I’d much rather start the game.

"I had the games of my life at full back in that short time and there were still a lot of things to learn and skills I could sharpen to make me a better full back. I had to swallow a bit of pride and say full back is for me and then focus on getting the skills in hand to make me one of the best."