Tait injury scare for England
By Tony Curtis
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
England are sweating on the fitness of Mathew Tait ahead of the clash against New Zealand.
England are sweating over the fitness of Mathew Tait after the Newcastle back became the latest doubt for the November 5 showdown with New Zealand.
Having successfully returned from knee surgery, the 20-year-old had been earmarked for a starting role in the centres against the All Blacks.
However, a 'minor muscle tear' means Tait will miss Saturday's European Challenge Cup clash against Brive - and although Newcastle insist he will be fine for England duty, there will still be question marks over his fitness.
Tait's injury is just the latest scare for England coach Andy Robinson, who has already seen Mark Cueto and Josh Lewsey pick up knocks playing for their clubs in the Heineken Cup.
Added to that, England are missing the talents of Jonny Wilkinson, Olly Barkley, Steve Borthwick and Stuart Abbott.
The biggest problem for Robinson, though, is what to do about his troublesome centres if Tait fails to make it.
Robinson has struggled to find the best combination at 12 and 13 in recent Tests and had looked to Tait to add the much-needed guile that has been lacking from England's attacking play.
However, the exciting Gloucester prospect Anthony Allen is pushing hard for a start, while Tait's Newcastle team-mate Jamie Noon has been a favourite of Robinson's since he took over.
Alternatively, Robinson could turn to the versatile Lewsey or Sale's Charlie Hodgson to fill the gap.
Lewsey, long touted as a possible centre, would be seen as a gamble by Robinson, but his incisive running is certainly a valuable commodity, while Hodgson's kicking would offer the more defensive option against the most potent backline in world rugby.