Man of the Match for Northampton on Friday evening against Newcastle, Ben Foden looked like a rejuvenated force at a crucial time.
At his best Foden is a thrill to watch from full-back, sniping into space while remaining technically strong in defence and under the high ball.
2014 was Mike Brown’s year for England but his form since the beginning of the season hasn’t matched the heights of the Six Nations, when consecutive performances won him the Player of the Tournament award.
Foden by contrast over the last year slid down the pecking order behind Brown and Alex Goode.
Goode will always be regarded as a playmaker perhaps better suited at fly-half, while Brown can be seen as the premier attacking threat of the trio with ball in hand.
But it’s Foden’s all-round subtlety to his game, his time on the ball, that has always made him stand out from the crowded pecking order at full-back.
154 metres from 15 carries on Friday are figures that would make any players in Super Rugby proud.
Naturally there are variables to consider, including that Newcastle’s defence hasn’t exactly been a wall of security this season. Plus the fact that Northampton are at the moment playing some sensational rugby.
Director of rugby Jim Mallinder rightly raised a little concern at the way his side’s defence had conceded over 30 points to the 11th-placed Falcons at home, but the quality of their attack is so good that you never lose the belief that they will outscore their opposition.
The handling for Stephen Myler’s try was particularly outstanding. Unlike Foden, Myler seems unlikely to ever truly get a chance with England given that George Ford and Owen Farrell lie ahead of him.
That in many ways is a bit of an injustice. Myler has burned off the label he used to wear of being a pragmatic, goalkicking fly-half short of imagination.
Flourishing under the guidance of Alex King, Myler is playing with real versatility as he showed with a delicate grubber for George Pisi’s score against Newcastle. At the same time he continues to knock over the points, passing 2000 for Northampton this weekend.
Myler and Foden are both benefiting from Northampton’s pack being able to squeeze out their opposition in the set-piece, along with constantly being able to produce quick ball at the breakdown.
Foden is thriving from it and in doing so putting pressure on Brown for his place with the Six Nations only weeks away.
When the 29-year-old offloads, tackles and troubles defences like he did against the Falcons, England have to hear his case for selection loud and clear.
An in-form Foden, as he has been over the last few months but now in a such an important year, is a big boost for Lancaster.