Martin Johnson heaped praise on Ben Foden after he was named in England's revised squad for the RBS 6 Nations.
The was included in a 32-man elite squad on the back of a strong of eye-catching displays for Northampton this season.
Gloucester full-back Olly Morgan was also rewarded for his blistering club form, while team manager Johnson recalled seasoned campaigners Mike Tindall and Mark Cueto, whose last England appearance was in the 2007 World Cup final.
Morgan has arguably been the outstanding player in the Guinness Premiership this season while Johnson believes Foden’s time has now arrived. Both are proven try-scorers and outstanding finishers.
Foden has replaced Pete Richards to be listed as England’s third scrum-half but he can also slot into full-back and offers the same kind of variety as Johnson’s old team-mate Austin Healey.
“Foden is instinctive, a very good player and a fantastic athlete as well,” said Johnson.
“The main thing about him is his ability. He is a fantastic attacking rugby player. We wanted to get him into the squad at some point and felt now is the right time to do it.
“It is pretty unusual for guys to have such a range of positions. Pete Richards could do it. Austin Healey could do it. They are valuable to their clubs in their versatility and they are valuable to us in putting a squad together.
“I agree it is better if these guys specialise. They all want to start Test matches and we need to let them know where we think they can do that.”
Foden could find himself on the bench for England’s opening game against Italy given Harry Ellis is currently suspended and will not have played a game before the tournament begins.
Foden said: “It’s a real honour to have earned selection. I’m enjoying my rugby and just want to be on the field every week in whichever position I’m chosen.”
Morgan’s inclusion was rubber-stamped when it became clear the finger injury he suffered in Gloucester’s defeat to Newcastle was only a dislocation and not a break as first feared.
Tindall was relegated to the Saxons squad after a disappointing summer tour but returns alongside Cueto, who has found a rich vein of try-scoring form for Sale over the last two months.
“I think the whole squad will be boosted by the return of players like Tindall, Cueto and Lewis Moody,” said Johnson. “They are in the squad because they are in good form but it helps that they are experienced as well.”