England recall Tait for Wales Six Nations opener
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Mathew Tait was recalled by England on Tuesday as manager Martin Johnson looked to sharpen the team’s attacking edge for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Wales at Twickenham.
Tait was one of six changes, four behind the scrum, made by 2003 World Cup winning captain Johnson behind the scrum to the team beaten 19-6 by New Zealand at Twickenham last time out in November.
Tait, selected at outside centre, will partner New Zealand-born Riki Flutey, fit after a shoulder injury, in midfield after Johnson dropped Ayoola Erinle and Danny Hipkiss from the team that played the All Blacks.
Delon Armitage, who was also sidelined in November by shoulder problems, returns at full-back after seeing off a challenge from the uncapped Ben Foden while Danny Care replaces Paul Hodgson at scrum-half.
Mark Cueto moves across from full-back to his more accustomed right wing berth with Matt Banahan, who played against New Zealand, dropped.
Up front fit again Nick Easter returns at No 8 in a revamped back-row where David Wilson starts in the front row in place of Duncan Bell.
Saturday’s match will see Tait, who’ll be celebrating his 24th birthday, make only his second England start since the 2007 World Cup final defeat by South Africa where his searing break almost led to a try.
Of his 32 caps, only 15 have come as a starting player with Tait having suffered for being known as a “utility back” and being regarded as too lightweight for Test rugby after being dumped on his back on debut as an 18-year-old by Wales centre Gavin Henson in 2005.
But he has thrived this season in midfield for Newcastle.
And with Johnson, who has overseen just six wins from his 14 Tests in charge, admitting he was “over-prescriptive” in his instructions in November, he will have a key role in livening up a ponderous attack that managed just one try in three during November Tests – defeats by Australia and New Zealand separated by a stuttering win over Argentina.
Tait will have inside him at outside-half his former Newcastle colleague Jonny Wilkinson, who was much criticised in November for failing to put England on the front foot.
Second row Steve Borthwick, despite all the brickbats that have come his way from a variety of former internationals, retains the captaincy and will pack down alongside Simon Shaw.
© AAP 2013
England team (15-1): Delon Armitage; Mark Cueto, Mathew Tait, Riki Flutey, Ugo Monye; Jonny Wilkinson, Danny Care; Nick Easter, Lewis Moody, James Haskell; Steve Borthwick (capt), Simon Shaw; David Wilson, Dylan Hartley, Tim Payne.
Replacements: Steve Thompson, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Steffon Armitage, Paul Hodgson, Toby Flood, Ben Foden.
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