Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Banahan at Ease on the Big Stage; Performances Impress Coach

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Banahan at Ease on the Big Stage; Performances Impress Coach

Article excerpt

Argentina 24 England 22

MATT Banahan believes he is ready for anything Test rugby can throw at him after emerging from England's defeat by Argentina with his reputation further enhanced.

The Bath winger has adapted to the international game with remarkable ease and has proved one of Martin Johnson's finds of the season.

Showing speed, power and composure, he ran in England's only try in front of a nationalistic Pumas crowd at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta.

Having survived his club baptism at the Shed, Gloucester's infamous stand, Banahan insists the experience of playing in Argentina will enable him to feel at home in any Test arena.

"I was always told that playing at the Shed will make or break a Premiership player," he said.

"To come to Argentina will probably make or break an England player as we only had about 10 fans there and it was really noisy.

"It was a very hostile environment but if you can play well in the worst places, hopefully when you visit the nicer places your standards will only rise.

"Hopefully I can keep playing well in front of those Gloucester fans and the next time I go to Argentina, and into bigger games like Australia, New Zealand or Wales at the Millennium Stadium, I will cope." Starting the summer in the England Saxons squad bound for the Churchill Cup, Banahan was called up by Johnson as injury cover for David Strettle.

But instead of holding tackle bags, the back played in all three of England's matches and his development has delighted a visibly impressed Johnson.

His next objective is to ensure he is among the 32 names included in the Elite Player Squad announced on July 1, though in reality his presence is now a formality.

"Looking back, I was just pleased to be in the Saxons squad because that meant I was one of the top 30 backs in the country," he said.

"Now after three games and two caps, I have three tries. I'm pretty happy with that but I've got to look ahead and hope I'm in the EPS squad on July 1. …

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