Ben Foden will always be indebted to France coach Philippe Saint-Andre for spotting his potential as an international full-back.
But as England head to Paris for their RBS 6 Nations showdown, Foden’s only desire will be to make Saint-Andre wish he had never opened his mouth.
Foden was a promising scrum-half for Sale when he filled in at full-back in a Possibles v Probables pre-season match, caught Saint-Andre’s eye and played a handful of Premiership games in the 15 jersey.
Unconvinced by Saint-Andre’s advice, Foden left Sale for Northampton the following summer and was determined to pursue a career as a scrum-half.
But it turned out Saint-Andre was right. Foden eventually settled on full-back and he has been England’s first-choice for the last two seasons.
“I saw Philippe at a golf event after I had broken into the England team and the first thing he said to me was ‘I told you so’,” said Foden.
“Philippe talked to me when I went to Northampton and said I had massive potential to be a full-back. I’m very grateful in that he spotted my potential.
“I’ll always be indebted to him for that. I look forward to seeing him and we’ll have a chin-wag after the game.
“I am sure he will test me out nice and early.”
Foden has been disappointed with his performances for England so far this Six Nations and, with Saint-Andre watching on, there will be no better occasion to prove what he can do as a Test full-back.
“I need a big performance because I don’t think I have been that great in this competition so far and I have lot more to give,” Foden said.
“I feel I am ready for a big game.”
Foden made his first Test start against France in Paris two years ago, scoring a try in an England performance of real attacking purpose.
But Foden’s most recent memory of playing Les Bleus is of last autumn’s painful 19-12 World Cup quarter-final defeat in Auckland and he is one of only five players still in England’s starting line-up.
“That is a memory that will last a long time for me,” added Foden. “It is in the heads of those who were involved. we had hopes and promise leading into the Word Cup and France weren’t running the hottest when we faced them.
“Everyone thought they were there for the taking but we didn’t step up to the mark.”