Banahan at home on international stage
June 14, 2009
Matt Banahan starred in his first two Tests for England © Getty Images
England wing Matt Banahan believes that he has shown that he can cut it on an international stage after further enhancing his reputation by scoring England's only try in their 24-22 loss to Argentina at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta.
Banahan chipped in with his third try in three games for England, having made his first appearance in a white shirt against the Barbarians on May 30. He won his first cap a week later at Old Trafford and after proving himself in Bath colours in front of Gloucester's fervent Shed crowd, he likened his experience in Salta to running out at Kingsholm.
"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. I was pleased with the way it went.
"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."
Banahan got his chance in the England side following another injury to the unfortunate David Strettle, being promoted from the Saxons setup due to contest the Churchill Cup in Denver. A Saxons regular, Banahan will now have his hopes set on being included in the England Elite Player Squad (EPS), due to be announced by Martin Johnson on July 1.
"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. All I can do is what comes naturally and play the way I can. I couldn't have done any more over the last three weeks and hopefully I've done enough."
Banahan combined well with fullback Delon Armitage in scoring his try, collecting a pop pass and flattening Francisco Leonelli to score. His score was vital in pulling England back in to contention after a poor start, but he admitted that they would have to tighten up if they are to return to the top of the world game.
"Delon and I agreed to always expect the ball from each other. He knew I was there so he left it in the air and I did the rest. I was happy with that," said Banahan. "The first 20 minutes we weren't up to scratch but it looked on at the end - we were only a penalty away. We talk about wanting to be up there in the top three of four teams in the world, but you've got to be precise and accurate."