Foden: Saints coaches face big selection headache

FIT AGAIN - Ben Foden is available for selection for Saints' game against Exeter on Saturday
FIT AGAIN - Ben Foden is available for selection for Saints' game against Exeter on Saturday

Ben Foden believes the Saints coaching staff will face their biggest selection headache yet ahead of the Aviva Premiership curtain-raiser on Saturday.

Northampton, bolstered by several big-name summer signings, take on Exeter Chiefs hoping for the perfect start to the new campaign.

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says he has a fully fit squad to call on, leaving him with a number of difficult decisions to make for the game.

And Foden believes that can only be a good thing as he and his team-mates, old and new, aim to make up for the Premiership final defeat to Leicester in May.

“This is the first time that the squad is really giving the coaches a headache with selection,” said the England full-back, who joined Saints from Sale in 2008.

“We’ve got so many good players in so many different position stating a case to start. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

“Obviously I’ve got Georgie North at the back with me and he’ll be a star of the Premiership to come.

“Guys like Kahn (Fotuali’i), (Alex) Corbisiero and Salesi Ma’afu show we’ve got some big names and we’ve got guys coming through who will hopefully make a big impact on the Premiership and on Saints.

“Hopefully we’ll go one step further and hopefully win some major silverware.”

Foden has been back in training this week after recovering from the ankle knock which kept him out of last Friday’s pre-season win against Leinster in Dublin.

And the No.15, who missed a chunk of last season due to an ankle ligament injury, is hoping for more luck on the injury front during the forthcoming campaign.

“I feel alright now,” he said. “I just tweaked my ankle but not in the same place I injured it before, so it’s alright.

“The coaches were nice to me and let me sit that one (Leinster) out, but I’ve been back in training this week and I’m chomping at the bit ready to go for the start of the season.

“It was a frustrating year for me last year, especially with everything that was up for grabs with the Lions tour. My hopes and aspirations of going on that tour disappeared.

“I’m now sitting in a reserve spot for the England squad so I need to make sure I keep my form and fitness and push for a place.

“I’m included in the EPS, which means they’re thinking about me and I managed to get away with the side in Argentina and get off the bench a few times so hopefully I’ll put the guys under pressure who are keeping me out of the squad a get a place for the autumn internationals.

And on last season’s injury woe, he added: “The problem with me was that I rushed back from the injury, was still carrying it and was probably playing at about 90 per cent in games.

“It showed in games that my form dipped a little bit. I took some time out, spoke to the physios and coaches here at Northampton and they were good to me. They rested me when I needed resting so I got the right treatment on my ankle when I need it.

“Coming to the back end of the season, when the trophies are won, I was back to full fitness and playing well.

“That was justified in the selection to go on the South America tour and I was lucky enough to get on the field a couple of times and show my worth.”