AIMSHIGH Foden ready for Pumas’ aerial assault
ARGENTINA v ENGLAND Saturday, Dunedin, 9.30am
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.
“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