It would be factually incorrect to suggest that Mathew Tait is “always injured”, but there are undeniably times when it seems that way. Like now. Stuart Lancaster and his fellow England coaches were relishing the prospect of watching the Leicester full-back play for the second-string Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds at Gloucester this weekend and Tait knew that a strong performance would do his chances of a welcome red-rose recall no harm at all. Sadly, there will be no performance of any description. The poor man is crocked again.
Tait failed to go the distance for the Tigers during their intense Heineken Cup contest with Ulster at the weekend and his latest orthopaedic problem – something to do with his back, it is thought – is sufficiently serious to rule him out of representative rugby in the short term. After he overcame an interminable groin injury, only to see a spectacular return to form interrupted by an ankle issue that proved far more stubborn than expected, this latest setback is just about as much as flesh and blood can stand.
Frustratingly, all three of Tait’s club colleagues in the Saxons squad – the wing Miles Benjamin, the lock Graham Kitchener and the flanker Jamie Gibson – pulled out in sympathy yesterday. There was significant movement on the reinforcements front, though. Elliott Stooke, the young Gloucester second-rower who has been magnificent in adversity this season, now finds himself in the frame, as do the Sale full-back Rob Miller, the Quins midfielder Matt Hopper and the Northampton tight-head specialist Tom Mercey.
Ryan Jones has ben forced out of Wales’ squad for the Six Nations with the hamstring injury he sustained playing for Ospreys against Leinster on Friday. The back-row forward has been replaced by Ospreys team-mate James King.