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#ThanksTaity: The thinking man's rugby hero

If you haven’t watched the tribute clips in circulation following the retirement of Mathew Tait then The Tig thoroughly recommends that you to find the time to do it.

In an era when rugby has its critics for following the ‘bigger is better’ mantra, a look at Tait is well worth it.

In his natural habitat in the backline – whether at centre or later at full-back – a Tait break is among the most aesthetic sights in rugby. He allied a formidable change in pace – up and down in equal measure – with dancing feet, the eye for a gap and that most valuable of attributes, a smart rugby brain.

Watching Tait with ball in hand during those clips this week, it is also obvious how decision-making was a vital part of his game too. When to carry, when to sprint, when to take contact, Tait got it right a lot more often than mere mortals.

But Taity was also a bit of a hard nut. He would not have survived for 15 years in elite company with the angelic schoolboy looks if he couldn’t look after himself.

“Aaaaarrrrrrr, what… that was unbelievable… Mathew Tait”

Nick Mullins, BT Sport

His Tigers career took a while to get started due to injury, and there are some who wonder what might have been if he had not suffered injury problems after picking up 30-plus England caps before his mid-20s, but Taity still made nearly 200 Premiership appearances with his three clubs.

His first and last seasons with Tigers were affected by injury problems, but there was a lot of quality and commitment to admire in the six in between.

Just look at the second half of his career and the value of his work at full-back. Invariably tackling low and brave to a fault, Taity also had that quality of being able to bounce back to his feet to contest the breakdown or at least shore-up a hole in defence after the point of impact.

He is, of course, best remembered in the last 12 months or so, certainly by Dan Robson, for that last-gasp tackle to deny a Wasps try in the match at Welford Road last season.

The timing and the technique were matched by the determination of a seasoned winner.

To have all that and to still be a top bloke on and off the field means Taity is everything you could ask for as a player and in a man. All the best for a very happy retirement Mat.