posted on Dec, 31 2004 @ 07:04 AM
Newcastle Falcons have already carved a permanent niche in the history of English rugby by developing and nurturing their prized asset - fly-half
superstar Jonny Wilkinson. Wilkinson has long since taken his place among England's all-time greats, helped on the way towards sporting immortality by
Newcastle boss Rob Andrew and his coaching team at Kingston Park. But the Falcons now have another prodigious talent on their books, a teenager who
looks set to make an England breakthrough sooner, rather than later.
At 18, Mathew Tait has enjoyed an exciting start to his Zurich Premiership career, underlining enormous potential as a centre or wing of rich ability.
Tait's powerful running, his vision and creativity with ball in hand and a knack of being unfazed by the big occasion, makes him a special prospect.
"He is a spark, and we just have to keep letting him develop naturally," said Falcons rugby director Andrew.
"We know that we have a responsibility to look after him, and drip feed him into things when it's appropriate.
"You don't become the finished article four months after leaving school."
Newcastle have developed a special knack for looking after their own, producing some of the most impressive young talent in England. The likes of
Jamie Noon, Dave Walder and Michael Stephenson might not have made it as England regulars, although all three players have won caps, but they are
living proof of Newcastle's determination to put their faith in youth.
Tait might just prove to be Falcons' pick of the bunch. If he continues at his current rate of progression, then England will be assessing him in
double-quick time. When the cream of British rugby talent head for New Zealand next summer and the three-Test Lions tour, England will be on Churchill
Cup duty in North America. And that appears the ideal time to give Tait an opportunity on the bigger stage, blending him into an England squad set-up
and seeing how he performs. Wilkinson might be a one-off, but Mathew Tait is a player who could, in his own way, also deliver big things for England.