Mat Tait set for Maori clash after 13-month absence from Leicester Tigers line-up
Former England back Mat Tait will make his first start in Leicester Tigers colours in more than 13 months when he lines up against the touring New Zealand Maori side at Welford Road next Tuesday.
Director of rugby Richard Cockerill confirmed the 26-year-old's long-awaited comeback from a groin injury, which has restricted him to just three appearances for the club he joined in the summer of 2011.
Leicester believe they have finally got to the bottom of a debilitating injury that has threatened Tait's career after the former Newcastle and Sale man had won 38 Test caps for England in his early 20s.
And if he can prove his fitness, Tait could be the long-term answer to Tigers' vacancy at full-back if Geordan Murphy decides to call it a day at the end of this season.
"Mat is fit and he will play on the wing and at outside centre in the games against the Maori and London Irish," said Cockerill.
"Maybe full-back is going to be his position because, certainly, we need to look at that position moving forward.
"He can play outside-centre and wing just as well but the No.13 shirt is pretty well covered for us and we have plenty of bodies on the wing.
"So full-back may be a natural choice for him."
Tait's opportunity to play in the first team has come after a couple of showings in the A League.
There will be plenty more players from the Development XV who will be involved when Tigers begin the defence of their LV= Cup crown against Saracens at Bedford's Goldington Road ground on Friday night.
Tigers are missing all eight of their England contingent as well as a host of players who are either injured or on international duty.
They will also be without Kiwi fly-half Dan Bowden who, after spending most of the season out with injury, is back fit again – only to have returned to his native New Zealand to get married.
"We always knew Dan was going home to get married but his timing is unfortunate – if that's the right word to use for a wedding," said Cockerill. "He has had a lot of injury issues this season and, when he gets the chance to play this week, he is away.
"There are some things more important than rugby though and we let our players do that.
"He will be back here on Monday and be involved for the Maori game."
Tigers are likely to give game time to some of their promising youngsters like Ryan Bower, Jonny Harris, Jimmy Stevens, Fraser Balmain, Andrew Symons and Andy Forsyth on Friday while new signings Michael Noone and Lucas Guillame are also likely to be involved against Saracens.
Leicester Tigers round three Heineken Cup game against Treviso has been moved from Saturday December 8 to Sunday December 9, by organisers European Rugby Cup (ERC). Kick-off is 3pm.