Saints Q&A: Ben Foden looks back after signing a new deal at Franklin’s Gardens

Ben Foden joined Saints in 2008

Ben Foden joined Saints in 2008

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Ben Foden arrived at Saints as a scrum-half seven and a half years ago.

But now, having won numerous trophies and with 34 Test caps under his belt, the man who has grown into one of Europe’s most potent full-backs is looking forward to reaching a decade at Franklin’s Gardens.

As the 30-year-old admits - time has flown by.

And here Foden, who signed a new two-year deal on Wednesday, takes time to answer a few questions about his Saints career so far.

So, Ben - you arrived at Saints as a scrum-half, but are now a full-back. Talk us through that change...

“My dad was always the one who said I should play nine and he was adamant.

“The real thing that changed me was when I played for England at nine, I didn’t feel that comfortable on the field.

“I wasn’t feeling as comfortable playing at nine as I was at 15.

“I was getting the headlines and winning the awards for playing 15 here.

“I sat down with Jim (Mallinder) and he said I could share games with Dicko (Lee Dickson), do two on, two off, or I could play at 15 for two of them and then nine for two of them or just play 15 throughout the whole thing.

“It just came to a point where I felt it was best for the team having me at 15 and Dicko at nine, Bruiser (Bruce Reihana) on the wing, Ashy (Chris Ashton) on the other wing.

“It was just the right decision.

“It wasn’t one I made lightly but it’s one that’s paid dividends.”

You’ve certainly been part of some good backlines over the years, haven’t you?

“I’ve been very lucky and blessed to play with some great players, but it’s not always the guys who get the big honours.

“One of my favourite players to play with was Jimmy Downey and he hasn’t really done international honours, but he was the rock of our team, especially when we did that year when we went to the (2011) Heineken Cup final.

“Him and Jon Clarke were defensively brilliant and they understood what they were good at.

“Jimmy was good in defence, was a rock but also carried very well for us up the middle.

“He wasn’t the flashest player in the world, he wasn’t scoring tries from 60, 70 metres, but he sucked in defenders and made a great platform for me and Ashy to reap the rewards and do what we do.

“I’m lucky and blessed to have played with a lot of great guys and we’ve got Georgie North out there at the moment, one of the world’s best wingers.

“Georgie Pisi changed the way I looked at the game when I first came to the club, what he taught me about defenders and what they think when they look at me. He played against me for Samoa.

“You can take the experience from these guys and they always have different things to add to the mix.

“For me as a player, growing and getting to where I am now, it’s always good to have that.”

Was that Heineken Cup season your favourite at Saints?

“I’d say yes.

“It’s difficult because we’ve gone on and won a Premiership and won other competitions, but the thing for us that year is we we didn’t have the really big names.

“We didn’t have the Georgie Norths, the Juandre Krugers, the Sam Manoas - but the bond and team unity that year was bigger than ever.

“Every time you sat in a meeting and they announced the team for the week you could read it off straight away.

“It was 15: Foden, 14: Ashton, 13: Clarke, 12: Downey, 11: Reihana, 10: Myler, 9: Dickson, you could look around the room and see everyone mouthing it along with everyone else.

“It was the same 15 players, the same 23 players and we went through everything together.

“We went through the whole of the Heineken Cup undefeated until the final and it didn’t have the fairytale ending, but it’s like a film. You could write a film about it.

“We were so close to the happy ending and it was unbelievable because we weren’t the most talented, but we worked so hard for each other.

“We believed in each other and the strength of the brotherhood in that squad is unlike anything I’ve experienced.”

Do you miss the times when there was less rest and rotation?

“The game’s changed a bit now.

“The Heineken Cup then was dominated by the Irish teams, the Leicester Tigers, the Wasps and now it’s dominated by the French.

“The salary cap has something to do with that, so it’s changed and it’s so physical now, so many games.

“The Irish teams were so successful then because they played a lot less games.

“They showed a stat before that game against Leinster, showing how many games we had played compared to them and we’d done double, so it take its toll.

“Being an old man of 30 now I need the rotation and the rest to get me through the season.”

But you have started every game this season. How does that feel?

“When I was a younger man, Jim used to ask me whether I wanted a rest and I was like ‘I don’t train all week long to rest at the weekends, because it’s what’s fun for me.

“I like playing the game of rugby.

“Training and the gym and things like that are the thing I don’t really want to do - I just want to play at the weekend.

“I don’t want to train and not play at the weekend, I just want to get out there and play.

“As soon as I come to the point where I don’t want to go out there on a Saturday and playing in front of the fans here, I’ll call quits on my career because I always want to play.”

What more are you aiming to achieve at Saints?

“For me, I enter every competition with hopes that we’ll win it.

“It’s obviously early in the season and trophies aren’t handed out in December, but we’ve had a bit of a shaky start.

“But I still believe that our squad is outstanding and we can kick it with the best on any occasion.

“It just takes one big performance for us to win silverware if we can get ourselves in position.

“For us, we’ve got to keep fighting, keep scrapping for points.

“We’ve got some big fixtures coming up with Exeter coming here on New Year’s Day, and they are flying.

“We’ve obviously got London Irish away on Boxing Day and there’s no such thing as an easy fixture, but we need to keep winning those points and keep the pressure on the top four teams.

“We need to get ourselves in a position where we can be in those play-offs come May.”