AIMSHIGH Fo­den ready for Pu­mas’ aerial as­sault

AR­GENTINA v ENG­LAND Satur­day, Dunedin, 9.30am

Midweek Sport - - TV GUIDE -

BEN FODENwas frus­trated by his form in Eng­land’s World Cup build-up – but he’s ready to de­liver on the big­gest stage of his ca­reer.

Eng­land open up against Ar­gentina in Dunedin’s fu­tur­is­tic sta­dium, com­plete with a per­ma­nent glass roof, on Satur­day.

The Eng­land back three were starved of pos­ses­sion dur­ing their warm-up Tests against Wales and Ire­land, with teams grow­ing wise to the coun­ter­at­tack­ing threat they pose.

But Fo­den ex­pects Ar­gentina to test Eng­land with a bar­rage of high balls, as they did at Twick­en­ham in the au­tumn of 2009, and the Northamp­ton full-back will be ready and wait­ing.

He said: “This is what I have been work­ing for my whole ca­reer and I am ready to take it with both hands.

Night­mare

“I en­joy the pres­sure that comes with rugby. This is prob­a­bly go­ing to be the big­gest stage I have ever performed on and one of the big­gest games I will ever play.

“I don’t think I’ve been that im­pres­sive in the warm-ups. I need to up my game a lit­tle bit.

“If I get the shirt and the start I will look to take my chances when they come.

“Hope­fully you will see me back and run­ning a few balls and tak­ing play­ers on.”

Fo­den was a spec­ta­tor for that Twick­en­ham Test against the Pu­mas in 2009, when man­ager Martin John­son opted to play Ugo Monye out of po­si­tion in place of the in­jured Delon Ar­mitage.

Monye had a night­mare as Juan Martin Fer­nan­dez Lobbe hunted him down un­der the high ball. Two years on and Fo­den will get his chance. He added: “I played with Lobbe at Sale and I know what he is ca­pa­ble of. I look for­ward to him bear­ing down on me if they do stick a few up.

“In the last cou­ple of games the half-backs have re­alised if they kick loosely to us as a back line we are likely to pun­ish them and we haven’t seen as much ball.

“It is one of the tac­tics Ar­gentina revel in with Lobbe chas­ing and we have been work­ing on how we can counter that and hope­fully we can use it to our ad­van­tage.”

Eng­land scrum coach Gra­ham Rown­tree has steeled his men for the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge of fac­ing Ar­gentina’s set-piece.

Rown­tree faced the Pu­mas twice in his own 53-Test ca­reer and he knows that Eng­land could not have asked for a sterner open­ing chal­lenge.

Cler­mont Au­vergne hooker Mario Ledesma will pack down in a fear­some Pu­mas front row along­side Stade Fran­cais prop Ro­drigo Ron­cero and Mont­pel­lier tight­head Juan Fi­gallo.

Rown­tree said: “You test your­self as a player, as a front row for­ward, against the Ar­gen­tini­ans and the French.

“And when you have got Ar­gen­tini­ans play­ing with French clubs, that dou­bles the chal­lenge.

“It’s al­ways a very hard, phys­i­cal en­counter against them and I don’t think that will ever change.”

ARGY BARGY: Pu­mas stars Lobbe (left) and Ledesma

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