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Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Mathew Tait recalled for England Six Nations opener

RBS Six Nations: England v Wales
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 6 February Kick-off: 1700 GMT
Coverage: BBC One, HD, Red Button, Sport website and Radio 5 Live.
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Mathew Tait
Tait has had one start for England since the 2007 World Cup final

Centre Mathew Tait will start in an attacking England side for their Six Nations opener with Wales on Saturday.

It is the Sale player's second England start since the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in Paris and his 33rd cap in all.

Full-back Delon Armitage, inside centre Riki Flutey, number eight Nick Easter and scrum-half Danny Care all come into Martin Johnson's team.

Tim Payne retains the loose-head jersey with David Wilson returning at tight-head and Dylan Hartley at hooker.

The uncapped Leicester prop Dan Cole is on the bench as team manager Martin Johnson tries to cope with the loss of Andrew Sheridan and Phil Vickery with his side up against the Wales all-Lions Test front row of Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones.


After last year's disappointing autumn Test series, where England scored just one try in three games against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand, Johnson's selection for Saturday's game has a more attacking flavour to it.

And Johnson hinted that his side will adopt a positive approach against Wales at Twickenham.

"We have talked about what we want to do," he said. "We were maybe a little bit too prescriptive in the autumn and there were reasons for that. We know we have got to be more effective.

"We trust the guys to go out and play. Mat Tait is a massive talent and an instinctive player. He can also defend very well and he has a good kicking game.

"Danny is probably the best running nine that we have. He is playing very well and he is the best guy for what we want to do on Saturday.

"The guys have got to make the instinctive calls within the pressures of a Test match and we trust them to do that.

"When the opportunities are there we have to be able to see them and take them."

As well as Tait and Flutey in the centres, Jonny Wilkinson continues at fly-half with Ugo Monye and Mark Cueto on the wings.

Johnson revels in England pressure

There are only five survivors from the team that played Wales in the corresponding Twickenham fixture two years ago - Wilkinson, second rows Simon Shaw and Steve Borthwick and flankers James Haskell and Lewis Moody.

Johnson was pleased to welcome Flutey, Armitage and Easter back into the side after injury ruled them out of England's autumn plans.

"It is good to get them back," said Johnson. "With Riki and Delon, we picked them all through last year and they took their chance.

"It was a blow to lose Riki in the autumn. He has trained really well over the last 10 days and fitted right back in.

"Nick's leadership has been vital for us. He is a strength in that area and it is nice to get him back into the group because he is playing well for Harlequins."

Tait's career has come full circle since making his infamous international debut as a teenage centre against Wales' Grand Slam side of 2005.

Since then, Tait, who will celebrate his 24th birthday on Saturday, has been moved around the backline, filling in on the wing and at full-back but never really given a run in his preferred 13 jersey except at the 2007 World Cup.

His one England start since the 2007 World Cup final came at full-back against New Zealand on the 2008 summer tour, with his last eight caps coming as a replacement.

Tait 'over the moon' with England recall

When Johnson announced his Six Nations squad last month, he admitted Tait had been misused for too long and told the Sale player that now was the time to cement his place in the England midfield.

Johnson also believes Tait's defence is solid enough to deal with the Welsh midfield and he offers a sharper attacking threat to Dan Hipkiss, who he has replaced.

"There has always been a lot of speculation with Mat. Last season he had his injury issues and he then fitted on to the bench in the Six Nations," said Johnson.

"It is a close call. He is a different player to Dan Hipkiss but he has a good all-round game.

"We were always thinking about using Tait's talents on the field. He has a great all-round game, kicking, attacking and he is under-rated in defence. It is good to get him on the pitch.

"Tait has been through a heck of a lot. He is just coming up to 24. He is a bright, mature guy. He understands what he has got to do. He will play the game as he sees it."

Johnson confirmed Northampton's promising lock Courtney Lawes was not considered for the Wales match because of a slight groin injury.

England: D Armitage (London Irish); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tait (Sale Sharks), R Flutey (Brive), U Monye (Harlequins); J Wilkinson (Toulon), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), J Haskell (Stade Francais), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: S Thompson (Brive), D Cole (Leicester), L Deacon (Leicester), S Armitage (London Irish), P Hodgson (London Irish), T Flood (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton).

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see also
Six Nations on the BBC
29 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
RBS Six Nations launch day
29 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Video - 2009 Six Nations review
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott's players to watch
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Johnson fury at Dallaglio remarks
02 Feb 10 |  English
Byrne in clear for England game
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Johnson labels squad his 'best'
27 Jan 10 |  English
England boosted by Haskell return
26 Jan 10 |  English
Borthwick keeps England captaincy
25 Jan 10 |  English
Ashton & Hape earn England calls
13 Jan 10 |  English
Vickery set to miss Six Nations
08 Jan 10 |  English
Tait out in five England changes
09 Feb 05 |  Internationals
England 6-19 New Zealand
21 Nov 09 |  English

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