Saints’ milestone man Foden has a shock favourite

Ben Foden (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Ben Foden (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
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Ben Foden’s favourite Saints game may surprise supporters.

Because the majority of them have spent the past five years trying to erase it from their memory.

Yes, you’ve got it, Foden selects their 2011 Heineken Cup final defeat to Leinster as his most enjoyable match in the green, black and gold.

But why?

“I was thinking about this the other day and do you know, my actual favourite ever game was the Leinster game when we lost in the final of the Heineken Cup, because there was just something about the atmosphere and something about that team,” said Foden, who made his 200th Saints appearance in the 18-17 win at Worcester last Friday night.

“We were underdogs and if we’d have won it, no one would have seen it coming.

“I really enjoyed that season. We played some great rugby and a lot of the guys played virtually every game together.

“The 15 guys who started that Heineken Cup final seemed to play every game of the season.

“It was a year where everyone was like ‘these boys are here to stay, competing for major silverware’, and we gave Leinster, who were a very strong team that year, a real run for their money.

“We nearly got out of the back door and I’ll never forget the feeling after the game of ‘wow, we were so close, but hopefully one day it will go right for us’.

“Then we won the Premiership so it was all forgiven, but it’s still one thing I’d like to do before I leave this club, win a Champions Cup, but I don’t want to jinx us too much.”

Perhaps another reason for Foden enjoying the 2010/11 season so much was his personal form.

During that campaign, the full-back really started to establish himself as one of the finest 15s around.

And one tackle on Brian O’Driscoll in the final will live long in the memory for any Saints fan who witnessed.

Add that defensive steel to his attacking edge, and Foden was pretty much the complete full-back.

“I had a good game in the final, but I was just playing some good rugby,” he said.

“I hadn’t picked up any of my injuries, I was playing for England at the time and I was flying.

“It was probably some of the best rugby I’ve played in my lifetime so I enjoyed those moments.

“I look back on that season very fondly.”

So how does that season compare to the one Saints are currently experiencing? And how does the team the club had then compare to the one they’ve got now?

“We’re in one of these zones now, which is the transition zone, with some new blood being put into the team, with young Harry Mallinder, Rory Hutchinson, Tei (Harrison) last season and Louis Picamoles is there now,” Foden said.

“A lot of people are being fazed in and fazed out and a lot of leaders left, with the likes of (Phil) Dowson and Roger Wilson.

“It’s one of those things that happens to every club and people will say this season’s not going too well, but if you look at the results we’ve lost two games we probably should have won, against Bath and Wasps, two top sides in the Premiership this year, and if we’d have won them, we’d probably be second or first in the league.

“It’s margins and the league is getting tougher, which you can see with the rise of the likes of Newcastle this year, the likes of Exeter over the past few seasons.

“The game’s growing, more fans turn up to the games, there’s more money involved, people are carving out careers, coming out of school bigger, stronger faster and it’s something that happens in sport.

“For me, reaching the 200 mark means my career’s sort of coming towards and end, but I’m excited for the next step and I’ve still got another season to go after this and I still want to win some more silverware.”

Foden arrived at Saints as a scrum-half from Sale.

So does he ever look on enviosuly at the No.9s and think what might have been?

“Of course, the ones in England are not even any good,” he joked.

“I’m happy with my decision (to change to full-back), I’ve had a great career and I’ve still got high hopes of things to do.

“I’ve got 33 caps at full-back or on the wing and one at scrum-half and I loved my time playing for England. I wouldn’t change a thing.

“I’ve loved my time here at Northampton with great coaches, Jim (Mallinder), Westy (Dorian West), Grays (Paul Grayson) and Alex King. They’re some of the best in the business and some great names in English rugby.

“I’m just delighted to have been here and stuck it out for so long and it’s been great to have the trust from the coaches to pick me so many times.

“It shows we’ve got a good relationship and they back me to go out there and perform. Hopefully I can do that for another year and a bit.”