Ben Foden set to rejoin England squad

 

Ben Foden is set to rejoin the England squad tonight to start finalising preparations for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations game against Ireland after becoming a father for the first time.

Foden's fiancee Una Healy, a singer with The Saturdays, gave birth yesterday to a 7lb 13oz girl named Aoife Belle.

The Northampton full-back announced the news via Twitter, saying: "I am officially a Dad!!!!!! Una and baby are both amazing and healthy!!!! So proud of them both! £babybenuna".

The baby had been due on March 21 and Foden was aware he may have had to miss England's Six Nations finale if there was a clash with the delivery.

Given that Healy is Irish, Foden had joked she might try and push for an early birth to rule him out of the St Patrick's Day action at Twickenham.

But England coach Stuart Lancaster last night confirmed Foden's name in his 24-man training squad that is due to reconvene at their Pennyhill Park base following a day off.

Once again, there is no place in the squad for Leicester fly-half Toby Flood but Northampton loose forward Phil Dowson has been included, despite being knocked out in the closing stages of England's 24-22 win against France.

Dowson collided with French centre Wesley Fofana after diving on to a loose ball and he was already lying prone when team-mate Tom Croft stood on his face.

Lancaster has included both David Strettle, who missed the France game with a chest injury, and his wing replacement Charlie Sharples.

As a result, Harlequins scrum-half Karl Dickson joins Flood in being released back to his club.

Charlie Hodgson will continue to provide the fly-half cover for Owen Farrell, whose billing as England's new Jonny Wilkinson becomes more pertinent with every Test match he plays.

Farrell is uncomfortable with the comparison but he has already seen his work ethic, temperament, control and goal-kicking all likened favourably to England's 2003 World Cup-winning fly-half.

Defence can now be added to that list after Farrell's shuddering tackle on France number eight Imanol Harinordoquy in England's Paris triumph.

Farrell had put himself about all match but that one hit, so vital in England defending their two point lead, revived memories of Wilkinson's tackle on Emile Ntamack at the same stadium in 2000.

Wilkinson changed the job description of a fly-half.

When he policed England's 10 channel it was a no-go area for opposition ball carriers - and that was the message Farrell's tackle on Harinordoquy sent out to the global game.

"I enjoy getting stuck in. I would not like people to think I'm a weak link in defence, no definitely not," Farrell said.

"I am not particularly [trying to emulate Wilkinson] but obviously you realise that for a fella playing fly-half, going around putting all those big hits in, it was brilliant to watch.

"Everyone has to make tackles. Defence allows you to be very physical, especially the way we defend.

"We want to get off the line and smash people and we want to impose ourselves on opposition. Everyone enjoys defending here and everyone gets stuck in. That bodes well."

PA

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