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'His preferred position': England explain why they have backed Elliot Daly for a first start since 2016 at outside centre

By Liam Heagney

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England boss Eddie Jones has explained his rationale in replacing the injured Henry Slade in his midfield with Elliot Daly, a player who hasn’t started a Test match in the outside centre position since a November 2016 win over South Africa.

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All 44 of Daly’s other starts until now in his England career have come on either the wing or at full-back but a training ground injury to Slade last Monday has now opened the position up to Daly as Jones wanted to play a left-footed kicker at No13 in Dublin.

Slade’s injury was described by his club boss Rob Baxter on Wednesday as ‘niggly’ and there was optimism within the England camp that he would be ready to start against the Irish. However, he experienced discomfort on the training ground on Thursday and was scratched from the XV.

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“He ran this morning. Just wasn’t quite right,” outlined Jones before his team jetted across to Ireland for Saturday’s match. “Still feeling it a bit and given the position he plays, it would be too much of a risk. He had to pull out of the team this morning and Elliot will play at 13 and we have got Ollie (Lawrence) and Joe Marchant on the bench to back it up.”

Asked why he opted to go for Daly at outside centre, a spot he hasn’t started in at Test level for so long, Jones explained: “It’s more the sort of game we are anticipating.

“When we play Ireland at Aviva Stadium it’s generally a big aerial contest and to have someone in your back line with a left foot, which Henry gave us, is going to be a basic requirement. Henry is an important part of our team and Elliot can fill the same sort of duties as Henry did.”

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Daly was benched for last weekend’s round four win over France, his place going to Max Malins, but Jones is a fan of Daly’s versatility and is backing him to prosper in his revised role.

“He has had to dig down deep into himself, find the best of himself. It has been a tough Six Nations for Elliot and he is coming back into his best form and he has got a great opportunity in his preferred position.

“We prefer him to play at 15. The player can prefer their own position, we prefer him to play at 15. He has done a great job for us at 15. He celebrated his 50 caps and now the opportunity is for him to play at 13.

“If it’s a high volume kicking game, which it probably well be, then his work rate off the ball, his ability to get back on kick returns and his ability to kick chase is going to be really important and he has got a great engine on him. He is strong defensively and we know he is a penetrative runner. If he gets some quick ball he will trouble them [Ireland] on the outside.”

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'His preferred position': England explain why they have backed Elliot Daly for a first start since 2016 at outside centre

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