England's 2011 World Cup prospects appear considerably better than this time last year, something Ben Foden attributes to much improved performances from both players and management.
The Northampton full-back admits he was less than impressed by the attitude of certain squad members when first called into manager Martin Johnson's Elite Player Squad last year. Nor was he bowled over by the attitude of those in charge because there appeared to be a divide, a "them and us" mentality, that was never stated yet almost tangible.
However, having played his part as England squared their June series in Australia 1-1 with a rousing second Test victory in Sydney, Foden suggests the atmosphere heading into the autumn internationals at Twickenham is more positive and conducive to the development of new members of the squad.
England assemble at their Surrey headquarters tomorrow for medical checks followed by fitness-testing on Monday and a full week's training. Foden suggests there's a happier atmosphere than last year. "Certain players were settling for six or seven out of 10 performances 12 months ago, and that's unacceptable," Foden said. "Now, we're gelling as a team and the management are a lot more open.
"They've taken some responsibility, but the players have as well. They've got to learn as coaches, and we've got to learn as players. The spirit in the camp is good. We now have an open-door policy, so that whether you have three caps or 80, you can talk to each other and help each other."
Foden brought his tally of caps to six on tour and is one of the England success stories of recent months along with his club-mates Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton and Leicester's Dan Cole and Ben Youngs. All five figured in England's 21-20 win over Australia, Johnson's first win in the southern hemisphere as manager since his appointment in the summer of 2008.
Foden added: "So many people seem to forget the process you have to go through to build a team for a World Cup. If you are going to achieve that in just over a year, then there will always be a time when the old guys leave and the new ones come in. This process occurs in all squads and it has begun to happen in ours."
Foden believes Johnson's single-minded approach is good for the entire England camp. "Johnno stuck by his coaches when critics attacked them. That's a sign of good judgement. He stuck by them and believed in them. It's the same with players. In my first England game, I didn't play my best, but he showed patience.
"With four huge back-to-back Twickenham Tests in November, beginning with New Zealand, things are looking very interesting in World Cup terms heading into 2011."Reuse content