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Page last updated at 20:28 GMT, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Matt Banahan braced for switch to centre for England

Autumn internationals: England v Samoa
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 20 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra & online; Highlights on BBC TV (Saturday, 1900-2000 GMT, BBC Three/BBC Sport website; Sunday, 1130-1230 GMT on BBC Two/BBC Sport website); Also live on Sky Sports 1


England in good spirits for Samoa - Johnson

Bath giant Matt Banahan is confident of making a successful switch to centre after being handed his chance to join England's autumn revival against Samoa.

The 6ft 7in, 17st 9lb back started life as a lock and won five caps last year as a wing, but now starts in midfield.

"I was given an opportunity last season at 13 for Bath and carried the momentum into this season," he told BBC 5 live.

"I am adding more strings to my bow, I'm enjoying it and this is a great chance. It's up to me to take it."

Jersey-born Banahan, 23, admits it has been a "surprise" season for him at club level, where he has played four games at centre and four on the wing.

"I prefer centre," he said. "I like to carry the ball a bit more and there is a lot more decision-making, but as long as I am on the pitch representing my country, I don't mind where I play.

Maybe I will be a battering ram, maybe I will use my hands, a dummy line, all options are open

Matt Banahan

"The game is changing massively and it doesn't matter what shape your body is. You can play anywhere on the pitch as long as your skills are up to the standard they need to be.

"I knew I had it in me [to play centre], I am enjoying it and I am looking forward to putting a performance down on Saturday."

Banahan will form an all-Bath midfield pairing with Shontayne Hape, whom he partnered in Bath's first game of the season at Leeds, when he played at 12, but the two have subsequently shared the 13 jersey.

"Shontayne and I are both big guys and Samoa will have two big boys in there as well so it is going to be tough work out there," he added. "Maybe I will be a battering ram, maybe I will use my hands, a dummy line, all options are open."

Matt Banahan trains with England on Wednesday
Banahan won five caps last year on England's left wing

Banahan, whose arms are covered in tattoos including one which reads "Earn Your Luck", only started playing rugby seriously as a 16-year-old after playing representative hockey at school.

He started professional life as a lock at London Irish before former England coach Brian Ashton suggested a switch to wing at Bath, where Banahan moved in 2006.

Two weeks ago, before Banahan was preparing to face Cardiff Blues in the LV=Cup, Bath assistant coach Brad Davis suggested it would take some time before the wing would make a full transition to his new role.

"We know Matt's strengths," Davis stated. "Once he dominates the contact he's got a really soft pair of hands and can create offloads.


"It's going to take a little more time playing the centre position for it to become second nature.

"There's also things that I see in training on a daily basis that we've not seen in games that he's got a great pass and we can utilise him to get some width on our game as well. It's a work in progress, but he's a smart player, he picks up things really quickly and I'm sure he'll develop.

"At the same time you don't want him to lose what he got noticed for which was his dynamic wing play, carrying hard and at speed down the touchline taking two or three defenders with him.

"It's a real strength and in my opinion we don't want to lose sight of where he was originally and be too quick to turn him into a centre."

Mark Cueto

Highlights - England 35-18 Australia

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see also
England change four against Samoa
17 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Beating Aussies was vital - Foden
14 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
We must get even better - Johnson
13 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
England 35-18 Australia
13 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 20-10 Samoa
13 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Fourie living the England dream
09 Nov 10 |  Leeds
Fourie deserves a recall - Back
10 Jun 10 |  Leeds
Banahan given two-week suspension
16 Jun 10 |  English
Giant Banahan eyes big impression
05 Jun 09 |  Bath

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