Ben Foden feeling pressure as World Cup approaches
England's Rugby World Cup campaign kicks off against Argentina one month today and Ben Foden is feeling under the greatest pressure of his life.
The Northampton star has been England's first choice full-back since the final match of the 2010 Six Nations.
But Foden is beginning to feel the heat after his revitalised rival Delon Armitage produced an eye-catching performance in England's first World Cup warm-up match against Wales.
Foden will get his chance to respond when England travel to Cardiff for the return fixture on Saturday but he knows the pressure is on.
England manager Martin Johnson will finalise his World Cup squad on August 22 and after that there is one final preparation game, away to Ireland, before the tournament begins.
"There's more pressure than ever on me this weekend," admitted Foden.
"Delon's a good friend of mine so it's good to see him back playing so well - but it definitely puts the pressure back on myself and the ball is back in my court.
"When I get a chance to put the shirt back on I need to perform well. Delon's getting back to the form he showed in 2009 and I've got to make sure I match that and keep my nose ahead."
Foden has experienced contrasting emotions at the Millennium Stadium this year.
In February, England beat Wales en route to their Six Nations title but in May Foden was part of the Northampton side that lost the Heineken Cup final to Leinster.
Foden is relishing the challenge that awaits him this weekend, not only in the battle against Wales but in his own personal duel with Armitage.
"It'll be a hostile environment going down to Cardiff. It will be very rowdy but we're looking forward it. I really enjoy that pressure and that centre stage," said Foden.
"I'm pretty sure it will be a feisty atmosphere again. I like the pressure. Nobody can afford to sit back on their laurels and assume they are going to be starting.
"The Welsh will be disappointed they didn't get the win at Twickenham and they need a win leading into their World Cup preparations.
"As for England, we want to show we can win on the road as we've got to go to New Zealand and play some of the fiercest teams in the world."
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