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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 14:39 GMT
Tait now centre of attention

By Simon Austin

Gavin Henson tackles Mathew Tait
Henson dumped Tait on his backside twice in the match
There was an age difference of just four years when Gavin Henson and Mathew Tait faced each other on their Six Nations debuts two years ago.

Yet the abiding memory of Wales' 11-9 win over England is of Henson gathering Tait under his arm like a parent with an errant toddler, before dumping him on his backside.

Tait was dropped from the England squad for the rest of the Six Nations, while Henson went on to star on the way to a Welsh Grand Slam.

On Saturday Tait returns to Cardiff, and the wheel has turned full circle.

While the 21-year-old will line up for a vibrant England and has this week been compared to Jeremy Guscott by Brian Ashton, Henson is injured and out of favour.

Tait is looking forward to proving how much he has developed since February 2005.

"I'm two years older, two years wiser," the 21-year-old told BBC Sport.

SIX NATIONS BLOG
BBC Wales' Sean Davies relives four great Wales wins over England

"I'm a completely different player, with 60-odd Guinness Premiership games under my belt now. I'm one of the senior players at my club.

"Physically I'm also developing and am confident in my ability. I've got a start, which is what I wanted, and am looking to take that chance with both hands."

Tait says the experience of 2005, when he was substituted shortly after half-time and then dropped for the rest of the Six Nations, has made him a better player.

"I was probably a bit naive in terms of the media attention and the atmosphere - it was fairly hostile," he said.

"It makes you a stronger person. Apart from the two tackles, which have been well documented, I think I had a pretty decent game.

"Obviously Andy made his decision and as a player you back people's judgements and want the country to go on and do well.

"I feel I maybe should have been involved the week after, but people make those decisions for the good of the team."

Tait says Newcastle director of rugby Rob Andrew - now the RFU's elite director - and fitness coach Steve Black helped him rebuild his confidence.

Mathew Tait and Gavin Henson
Tait won't be able to get his own back on Henson

"Going back up to the club, with people like Rob and Steve, was fantastic. Rob threw me straight back in and told me to get on with it, which was what I wanted."

Robinson has said his treatment of Tait is the one regret of his tenure as England coach. Yet the player says he has no bad feelings.

"I don't think he particularly needed to apologise, but he obviously felt the need to," he said.

"I spoke to Andy the week after and he'd made his decision. It was obviously hard to take, but you have to accept that."

Tait says he is excited to be coming into an exciting England side on the back of an impressive 26-18 win over France.

"It was some of the most expansive stuff I've seen from England and the guys do enjoying playing it," he said.

"It helps with Mike (Catt) with his experience, taking the players out of their shells a little bit.

"We've spoken this week about taking that progress forward. No-one will remember the France game if we go on and get beaten."

606: DEBATE

And, despite his previous experiences there, Tait is relishing the opportunity to play in front of 70,000 spectators at the Millennium Stadium.

"I think the atmosphere will be fantastic. Wales are a very, very tough side and they're a very proud rugby nation.

"With the roof on and 70,000 packed in, it's going to be fantastic."

And Tait insists he is not disappointed about missing out on the chance to vanquish his nemesis Henson, who is out for a month with a knee ligament injury.

"Gareth Thomas and Tom Shanklin are two quality players in the centre, so I'm looking forward to lining up opposite them."


SEE ALSO
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment
Tait 'handling England axe well'
09 Feb 05 |  Internationals


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