Ben Foden believes he can cope with anything Ronan O'Gara can throw at him in this weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final...
Ben Foden believes he can cope with anything Ronan O'Gara can throw at him in this weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final after earning his stripes as England's full back against the French in Paris last month.
The Northampton Saints star scored a try and was safe as houses in the Stade de France cauldron as he finally convinced England manager Martin Johnson, as well as many other doubters, that he could cope with the high balls at the highest of levels.
Having faced Munster's points machine twice already in the Pool stages of the competition this season, he knows he can expect another tough day at the office at Thomond Park on Saturday night.
But rather than worry about an aerial bombardment, Foden is getting ready to run Saints into the semi-finals.
"Last time we played Munster, Ronan O'Gara kicked very well against us and rolled the ball into touch over the heads of our wings," said Foden.
"I'm sure he will know not to kick to our back three because with wings like Bruce Reihana and Chris Ashton alongside me we are going to look to run the ball back at them.
"We've made a few plans to try to force Ronan to kick differently this time and to put more pressure on him. I think it is going to be a strength of ours to limit their kicking game.
"We go into this game with a clean sheet and have put new plans in place to get more involved in the game. When we went to Thomond Park last time we knew we had to come away with one or two points out of the game to reach the quarter-finals.
"There will be a different mind-set this time because it is pure knock-out rugby. It is kill or be killed and we know we have to go there and win.
"We will be looking to throw the ball around and put up a good score against them." Saints won the opening Pool game 31-27 before going down 12-9 in the return at Thomond Park.
Even so, that was good enough to earn Foden and co and quarter-final ticket and a return to Limerick for a third crack at the European giants.
"Games like this only come around every now and then in your career, so you have to make the most of them. I want to go to places like Thomond Park and test myself against the best teams in Europe," said Foden.
"These sort of occasions are the nearest thing you can get to international rugby. The physicality and pace of the game will be incredible.
"They are a vastly experienced side and seven of their players were in the side that lost to Northampton Saints in the 2000 Heineken Cup final. The only person left at Saints from our team is out coach, Paul Grayson.
"But while we might be lacking in the experience stakes, we have a young squad with an intent to go out there and play. We all want to put up our hands and show we can play at this level and we all have points to prove."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.