Rising star Foden delights in silencing his critics

FULL-BACK Ben Foden has hit back at his critics after stealing the show on his first international start, insisting he does not fear the high ball.

The Northampton star had been accused of lacking the steel to handle an aerial barrage in the build-up to England’s visit to the Stade de France.

But even though Foden came away on the losing side, he did so with praise ringing in his ears after an impressive all-round display that included a first Test try.

And the 24-year-old was happy that he dealt with all France could throw – or kick – at him.
“Personally I always thought it was one of my strengths under the high ball,” he said. “Jim [Mallinder, the Northampton coach] and people at the club have always said so.

“If people want to write me off and say I’m weak under the high ball I’ve just got to prove them wrong and it was a great stage to do that and luckily things went my way.”

Foden was “delighted” that his fifth-minute try came after combining with Saints colleague Chris Ashton. And having staked a convincing claim to be retained for the summer tour of Australia, the 24-year-old plans to underline his credentials as Northampton enter the final stages of what could be a hugely successful season.

“It gives me time to reflect on that performance,” he added. “I’ve got some big games for Northampton coming up.

“I’ve got the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup and I’ve got to keep my form at the club and prove to the selectors that I’m still going to be in form when they select the squad for the next summer tour.”

England manager Martin Johnson, meanwhile, insists Jonny Wilkinson still has much to offer despite being dropped. The fly-half kicked a superb 45-metre penalty after coming off the bench and Johnson said: “I read some stuff about Jonny this week, and then you see him land a touchline penalty kick like that. It makes you smile. You make these calls based on what you think might happen. Having Jonny on the field in the last 20 minutes, pretty fresh, is what we wanted.”

Johnson also defended his team, who finished third, saying last week’s draw in Scotland deserved a reappraisal. He added: “We got derided for saying Scotland weren’t half bad – and they went and beat Ireland away.”