Mathew Tait will make a first England start tomorrow since last year's World Cup final - and he admits it has proved a "disappointing" period in his Test career.
Tait’s searing break in the final against South Africa almost gave him a stunning solo try that could have teed up back-to-back World Cup triumphs for England.
He was denied inches from the line by a spectacular Victor Matfield tackle, but despite Tait returning home with an enhanced reputation as an international player, this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship proved a frustrating experience.
He failed to feature in former head coach Brian Ashton’s starting line-up, making four successive appearances off the bench.
And as the 22-year-old prepares for next month’s New Zealand tour, it is a trip that could conceivably see him consigned to further bench duties.
Although Tait starts at outside centre against the Barbarians tomorrow, he will arrive in All Blacks country contesting the full-back position with Harlequins’ Mike Brown.
Utility back is not a tag suited to many players, but Tait is determined to keep an open mind.
He said: “I let the coaches tell me where I should play. I’ve played loads of rugby at 13, so I am more than happy there.
“Moving to the future, I would like some clarification so I can settle on one position, but I don’t think it has done me any harm being able to play in a number of positions.
“As long as I am in the team, then I’m happy.
“It has been disappointing not to have been involved more than I have done, particularly after the World Cup.
“The World Cup final was the highlight of my career and to play well in the final was great.
“To a certain extent I took it for granted that I would be involved in the Six Nations, but obviously that didn’t happen. It refocuses you a little bit.”
Tait found himself frozen out of the midfield equation by his Newcastle colleagues Jamie Noon and Toby Flood, while Iain Balshaw filled the full-back role.
Tait added: “Decisions have been made for the dynamics of the team, and they have gone for guys who are carriers, which is something I have got to work on.
“I wouldn’t say it is a weakness for me. Everyone has different ways of trying to get over the gain-line – some people like to run over people, I just prefer to run around them.
“If I am not getting picked in one position, I need to listen to the coaches and find out why.”