Ever since his England debut against Wales in 2005 at the tender age of 18, Matthew Tait has been in the spotlight of the English game, a focus of the media, for many years the â€˜great hopeâ€™ of English rugby.
On Monday though, after a year out of the game through injury, Tait returned to action in an A League game for Leicester, an almost anonymous man it seemed.
Leicester and England fans should pay attention though, for at 25 Tait is still young, and all of that talent that he showed as a kid at Barnard Castle and then Newcastle is still there.
Tait is almost defined by that premature debut, the image of him being upended by Gavin Henson seeming to encapsulate his entire career. Indeed for a few years it did, with the memory of it seeming to weigh him down, but the talent was always there. Remember that dazzling run as he danced towards the South African try line in the 2007 World Cup final?
England have been paralysed in recent years by a lack of skill, pace and creativity in the midfield, Tait though has all of that by the hatful. Of course he needs time to bed back in and to see if he can get back to the level he was at before, but for a first game this was not bad, with the Tigers Director of Rugby, Richard Cockerill, saying:
“Taity played 50 minutes and scored a nice try. We didn’t want to push our luck so we brought him off. He did really well. â€œ
â€œHe had a few touches but the sole objective was to get Taity through some rugby, run into people and make some tackles and just get used to playing again because sometimes when you haven’t played for a while you forget what it was like.â€œ
There is no suggestion that Tait is the answer to all of Englandâ€™s problemâ€™s, and there is no doubt that he will need a long time at club level to ease himself back to top form if he ever can. However if he does, then he could certainly provide some of the spark that has been missing for England.
Only time will tell us if he can get back to that sparkling form of 2007.