11:53am Wednesday 14th May 2014
BEN FODEN insists teammate George North can do whatever he sets his mind to but hopes the Wales wing has thoughts only for Northampton Saints for as long as possible, writes Pippa Field.
North arrived in England from the Scarlets with the weight of a £250,000 transfer fee around his neck.
But, just like he proved Down Under when Australia's Israel Folau got taken for a ride, it requires a monumental effort to halt North's dramatic rise.
Whether on the wing or in the centre, North has been a welcome addition to Northampton as the Saints bid to go one further than last season's final defeat to Leicester Tigers.
With 40 Wales caps to his name already at just 22, North is only just getting started, and the next chapter could take him back Down Under as his performances for the British & Irish Lions last summer caught the eye of several Super 15 sides.
But after making the best impression possible at Franklin's Gardens this term, full-back Foden is keeping everything crossed that North doesn't get itchy feet any time soon.
"Coming here to the Premiership from the RaboDirect Pro12, it's a bit different," said Foden. "He was very well looked after there but he wanted to challenge himself, play rugby, he wanted to develop as a player.
"And credit where credit is due, he has been a massive asset to the club. The Premiership is very demanding, there's no such thing as an easy fixture but I think he has played the most minutes, it's between him and Luther Burrell and that's quite impressive.
"He's an athlete and an amazing player. He's 22 years old and has got 44 caps for Wales for a reason. He is one of those player who can turn your game around. It's good we have him with us.
"He's one of those players who can make a difference in a split second. That's why we signed him. He has that ability to do something out of nothing, we saw it against Gloucester at the start of the season.
"He's got plenty of time if he wants to cross to Super 15, he's only 22 but he's got another season or two left to play here so plenty of rugby left to play yet.
"Hopefully we can make him part of the furniture here, the fans love to see him run out and hopefully we can get him here and few more years."
And it isn't just North's pace and power that has impressed Foden, the Welshman's desire to roll up his sleeves and not shirk a challenge also catching the full-back's eye.
"I thought he would be more precious than he is, just because when we played in the final of the Heineken Cup against Leinster and you saw how much those guys played, it was very few games," Foden added.
"It is very demanding the Premiership, there is no such thing as an easy fixture and I think he has played the most minutes, between him and Luther, and that's quite impressive.
"He doesn't miss many games. Everyone thought he was going to be a bit precious, if he got a niggle then he wouldn't be playing, but he's not like that at all.
"I think he's enjoyed his time here, he's really brought into what Northampton is all about. Credit is due where it is. He's been a massive asset to the club."
Ben Foden was speaking at the launch of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Policy. Sign up for exclusive access to interviews and competitions at premiershiprugby.com/avivarugbypolicy
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