Cockerill tips Tait to return to his best
September 7, 2012
Mathew Tait has won 38 England caps, but hasn't featured in an England shirt since 2010 © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill sees no reason why Mathew Tait can't put two years of injury behind him to return to the form that earned him 38 caps for England.
Tait joined Leicester from Sale Sharks in time for the start of last season, but a succession of groin injuries meant he only featured in a Tigers' shirt three times. The club and player have been working hard to overcome those injuries and now there is hope that he will be able to pull on a playing jersey within the next two months.
"We have to be careful, we don't want to just chuck him back in there because he would probably be fit a couple of weeks earlier if we did that," Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury. "We want to get him used to the training volumes first of all. We have come this far, we need to be patient and get it right. We have a reserve-team game at the start of October and we should have him fit for that."
A fully-fit Tait would be a huge boost to Cockerill and his team as they chase a first Aviva Premiership title since 2010 after losses in the last two finals to Saracens and Harlequins. His pace and dynamism at either centre or on the wing would help the East Midlands' club make up for the loss of Alesana Tuilagi and Horacio Agulla before the season began.
Despite being aged only 26 Tait has packed a lot of experience into his career. Having made his England debut in 2005 at only 19 he was quickly dropped by then England coach Andy Robinson after enduring a torrid time on his debut against Wales in Cardiff. He recovered in time to play a part in the 2007 World Cup and came off the bench in the final to replace Jason Robinson at fullback. His last appearance in an England shirt came in the 27-17 loss to Australia in Perth in 2010.
"Some of the stuff he shows at training is outstanding and we have seen glimpses of what we have been missing," Cockerill said. "We took a risk in signing him and that has probably not paid off at this point. But he is a good lad and works very hard. There are not many world-class players out there to sign but Mat Tait, fully fit and on form, is as good as most.
"Mat is still only 26 and you tend to forget about that. He passes well off both hands and kicks off both feet; he has pace to burn and understands the game very well. There are not a huge amount of blokes you can say that about. He is a talented individual and a very skillful player, but the reality is that he has probably played less than 10 games in the last two years."
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