Tait backed to shine

Teen sensation Mathew Tait has been backed to cope with 'whatever is thrown at him' after being selected for England's Six Nations Championship opener against Wales. [more]

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Teen sensation Mathew Tait has been backed to cope with ‘whatever is thrown at him’ after being selected for England’s Six Nations Championship opener against Wales.

British & Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward will watch with interest as Tait becomes the youngest England debutant since his Newcastle colleague and Lions fly-half Jonny Wilkinson almost seven years ago when he runs out at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

It continues a staggering rise from schoolboy star to the Test match arena in barely 12 months, and with the Lions tour of New Zealand around the corner, a call-up to Woodward’s squad would cap Tait’s remarkable year.

Tait, 19 next Sunday, is still a Premiership rookie with just 11 league appearances under his belt, but both England boss Andy Robinson and Newcastle rugby director Rob Andrew are convinced he has got what it takes.

A product of the same rugby academy as Andrew at Barnard Castle School in Durham, Tait will be partnered in the centre by Falcons team-mate colleague Jamie Noon, who takes over from Henry Paul.

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‘Mathew’s call-up comes after a meteoric rise in the last year, and let’s not forget that at this time last season, he was still playing schoolboy rugby for Barnard Castle,’ said Andrew.

‘The amazing confidence he has shown in his short time with us so far, suggests that he can cope with whatever is thrown at him, although we should not forget how far he has come in a short space of time.

‘He is only 18 years old, and must be allowed time to develop at the highest level.

‘But, having seen the way he has played for the Falcons this season and the attitude he has demonstrated, I am sure he can make an impact.’

In selecting Tait as the 14th-youngest England international of all time, Robinson has taken a leaf out of his predecessor Sir Clive Woodward’s book, whose view was that if a player was good enough, then he was old enough.

‘I have never been afraid to select young talented players if I feel they are ready,’ said Robinson.

‘Mathew Tait has demonstrated to me he has the form and speed to earn his place in the starting XV. I congratulate him on earning his first England cap.

‘He will be playing alongside his club-mate Jamie Noon, which is something he will be familiar with.’

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