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Page last updated at 08:46 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 09:46 UK

Giant Banahan eyes big impression

Matt Banahan
Banahan scored six tries for Bath this season, with four in the Premiership

Bath wing Matt Banahan is determined not to become a one-cap wonder after being selected to play for England against Argentina on Saturday.

Banahan seized his opportunity in the 33-26 non-cap loss to the Barbarians to earn a starting spot against the Pumas.

And he has no intention of giving up the number 11 shirt now he is in it.

He told BBC Sport: "Let's see if I can get double-figure caps, get a run going and not just be on that one cap. It's nerve-wracking to be on that one cap."

Banahan was drafted into Martin Johnson's senior squad ahead of the Barbarians game after David Strettle was ruled out through injury.

And with fellow wingers Paul Sackey injured and Ugo Monye on Lions duty he staked his claim with a performance that impressed Johnson.

"Matt offers something different that no other winger we have does - his size and ability in the air. His all-round game is very good as well," said Johnson.

Banahan crossed for England's final try in the defeat after claiming a cross-kick from fly-half Andy Goode ahead of former All Black Doug Howlett.

And his subsequent debut caps a quick climb up through the rugby ranks.

The Jersey-born 22-year-old only turned his hand to the sport on a serious basis six years ago, having previously focused his attention on hockey at school, which he played to representative level.

And despite having played in the back three at school, his first incarnation in the sport at club level came as a lock at London Irish.

It was former national head coach Brian Ashton who set Banahan on the path to success on the wing when he suggested his young charge contemplate a switch of position after spotting his potential at a junior academy Rugby Football Union training session.

And Ashton made the most of his masterplan to mould the 6'7" 18st giant into a marauding winger when he signed Banahan to Bath's books in the summer of 2006.

"When I got the opportunity to move out I took it with both hands," said Banahan, who has described Ashton as an "inspiration".

"I still get stuck in and that's the enjoyable part, but if I can add more parts to my game it's a far more enjoyable game."

Opportunity is now knocking again and Banahan, who is covered in tattoos, including one on his forearm which reads "Earn Your Luck", is keen to make a big impact.

He is the first to admit he benefitted from a shock factor in his first year in Bath colours, crossing for 16 tries in 23 starts.

This term his return is down, with the score for England against the Baa-Baas at Twickenham his seventh of the season.

But he feels his all-round game has improved and for that is quick to praise the contributions of Bath head coach Steve Meehan and his assistants Brad Davis and Mark Bakewell.


He has worked on his kicking and passing and is happier to go hunting for the ball than he was before, which has resulted in a roving role akin to that of a "ninth forward" and a good return in assists even if that try count is down.

He has ignored the recent furore at Bath and concentrated on England in the past few weeks, solely focusing on following the likes of new team-mates Danny Care and James Haskell in becoming a permanent fixture on the international scene after being handed his debut.

Banahan said: "It's a special moment, and not only for myself but for the persistence of people at Bath throughout the years who have supported me.

"Steve, Brad and Mark have shown me the direction to go, and also the England set up saying I go through the sevens, Saxons and seniors as the steps to get that first cap.

"It's shown throughout the years through say Danny Care, James Haskell and now myself, and you've also got Tom Croft who has done it and gone to the Lions.

"The stepping stones are there, it's done well for the RFU and it's showing the youth have got the opportunity to come through and perform."

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