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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 17:39 GMT
Tait 'handling England axe well'
By Simon Austin & James Standley

Mathew Tait is tackled by Gavin Henson on Saturday
Tait had a hard time handling in-form Gavin Henson in Cardiff
Mathew Tait has taken being dropped by England in his stride, Newcastle fitness coach Steve Black says.

Tait, 19, has not even made the bench for Sunday's Twickenham showdown with France, despite starting England's 11-9 defeat to Wales last weekend.

"I've spoken to Mathew and he is fine," Black told BBC Sport. "The England management have spoken to him and explanations have been given.

"He's been dropped for tactical reasons rather than his performance."

Black, who has been working with the Newcastle centre for several years, added: "The coaches were happy with him on Saturday, but they've got a particular strategy for the France game.

"This hasn't dented his confidence. Mathew has achieved what he has so far because he believes in himself.

"Mathew knows exactly where he is at this moment in his career and he will continue to develop. He's undoubtedly going to be a great player."

Tait became the youngest England player for almost six years at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, and endured a difficult debut as he was outshone by opposite number Gavin Henson.

What showed up in Tait's play was possibly his frailty and not being quite big enough
Jeremy Guscott

Yet Black said that Tait was very positive about his England debut, despite not being able to display his full array of skills.

"Overall he says he had a marvellous experience. He's still very much part of the England squad and he wants to get back and refocused."

Former England centre Jeremy Guscott says coach Andy Robinson has made a courageous decision to drop Tait for Sunday's match with France.

"I think it is as brave a decision to leave him out as it was to include him in the first place," Guscott told BBC Sport.

"With what happened on the day against Wales, I think any world-class centre would have had difficulty trying to make an impact," said Guscott.

"The great thing that I saw was that, even through he was tackled at least twice hard by Henson, it didn't stop him from trying to have a go.

"But I think Robinson's made the right choice in Olly Barkley.

"What showed up in Tait's play was possibly his frailty and not being quite big enough, but that should not lead to anyone thinking any less of him.

"I think he's definitely one for the future, somebody who's going to be involved with the squad for a long time."

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