- Foden keen to rekindle international form of old
- “Hopefully I can use these games to propel myself back into the No.15 shirt” – Foden
Ben Foden is eager to evoke the “Old Ben Foden” and sees the three-match tour to South America as the perfect chance to showcase the smooth-running, counter-attacking, clinical rugby that have been hallmarks of his international career.
After being a key player in Stuart Lancaster’s maiden RBS 6 Nations campaign and the summer tour to South Africa in 2012, a debilitating ankle injury prevented the 27-year-old from taking any part in the subsequent QBE Internationals or Six Nations Championship of 2013.
During that period, Foden’s position as England’s pre-eminent full back was usurped by Saracens’ Alex Goode, with the strength in depth at No.15 only emphasised by the fact that the Harlequins full back Mike Brown has started the last seven Tests on the left wing.
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But if the old sporting adage “you’re only as good as your last game” rings true, Foden, who scored a try and topped carrying (12) and metres gained (127) stats in the Aviva Premiership final defeat to Leicester Tigers, has the fitness, form and firepower to give Lancaster a selection headache.
The Northampton Saints man said: “You use your ankle so much in the game that it needs to be 100 per cent for you to play at the best of your ability, it was frustrating but at the same time there were other guys who were playing better than me at the time. I had to tip my hat, get my head down, get my body right and start to work on my form.
“It’s been about getting back to the Ben Foden of old, making sure I’m competing to the best of my ability for a place in the team at full back.
“What got me here in the first place is that ability to attack from the back and I made myself a name as being an attacking player from deep. Hopefully I can do the same again and use these games to propel myself back into the No.15 shirt.
“It’s nice to come away on this tour knowing that my body is right and hopefully I can put in some big performances.”
Foden’s first chance could be against a CONSUR XV on Sunday, June 2 in Montevideo, Uruguay, with Lancaster naming his team on RFU.com at 3pm BST on Friday afternoon. But the former Sale Sharks man is not only under pressure from established internationals Goode and Brown, but also a fledgling crop of new talent.
Rugby league convert Kyle Eastmond came off the bench at full back to score against the Barbarians and Foden also pointed out the quality of London Wasps Elliot Daly, who scored a stunning try for the Barbarians against England and is considered in some quarters unlucky to not be touring South America himself.
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Foden has been a permanent fixture in Lancaster’s leadership group but with 30 caps is the most experienced international on the tour and will thus shoulder greater responsibility. Comfortable in that role and enthused by the energising influence of so many young talents in the camp, Foden believes the experienced heads will be important as England attempt to win back-to-back Test matches in Argentina for the first time in history.
“Rugby is quite an unusual sport in that you grow into these roles and if you ask the guys at Sale when I first came on the scene or ask a few guys still, they’d say I’m a bit of a space-cadet but I quite relish the idea of being a leader and showing the guys the ropes by being the experienced head on the field,” he explained.
“Stuart has talked me through that and it’s something I do at Northampton as well, so hopefully I can use my experience there to help us on this tour.
“The new players are so fresh, especially in the way they play. It showed at the weekend when they played against the Barbarians what it meant to score tries, Marland and Wadey were fist-pumping the ball and getting up and really celebrating because they’re ecstatic to play for their country.
“They’re hungry for tries and hungry to play a wide and expansive game, it’s refreshing and good to have around the squad. Obviously I’m there to haul them in a bit, with the experienced heads like Browny [Mike Brown], myself, Richard Wigglesworth and Dicko [Lee Dickson] there to balance us out.”