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How Elliot Daly went from England axe to 'significant' in 17 days

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Steve Bardens/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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It’s been quite a few weeks for Elliot Daly, the 29-year-old who has gone from getting axed by Eddie Jones on January 18 to being named in the England team that will start against Scotland this Saturday in the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations. It was just 17 days ago when Jones left Daly out of the 36-man squad originally named for the tournament.  

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He hasn’t played a lot of rugby, needs to get some good match fitness and some good match form behind him,” reasoned the England coach at the time about his decision to leave Daly at Saracens. Six days later, though, it was confirmed that Daly had been called up for the Brighton training week, an injury to Jonny May opening the door for a recall that the utility back hasn’t taken lightly judging by the rave reviews about him now.  

So impressive has Daly been that Jones named him on Thursday at outside centre for this weekend’s game in Edinburgh, the coach very much changing his negative January assessment by now declaring, “We feel like he is in really good form.”

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This timely re-emergence was also touched on by new England defence coach Anthony Seibold when he was on deck for the eve-of-match media briefing in Edinburgh. It was during November when the Australian spoke about how Owen Farrell – Daly’s Saracens teammate – was someone who was especially stepping up and impressing.

“He is a real leader with our D, him along with Courtney Lawes and Jonny May on the wing, they are three guys who have seen a real impact on the D,” explained Seibold a few days out from the Autumn Nations Series match versus the Wallabies. Fast forward a few months and those three players are nowhere to be seen in the England team chosen to tackle the Scots as they are now all injured.

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Seibold remembers the emphasis he had placed on that trio at the time but their absence hasn’t left him sweating about the England defence heading into Six Nations round one, the assistant coach instead giving kudos to the seasoned Daly in particular for the reassuring influence he has had on other players in the backline.

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I certainly did say that at the time, those three guys were real leaders in that autumn series,” remembered Seibold when his mid-series remark was recalled on Friday with a view to finding out who has been stepping up defensively in their absence. “It is an opportunity for a new group of players to step up. 

“We are not relying on one or two players from a defensive point of view. Lewis Ludlam has got some great endeavour on that side of the ball, Tom Curry and Luke Cowan-Dickie as well. And in the backline, Elliot Daly.

“I didn’t work with Elliot in the autumn series but he has been a real leader for a really young backline, particularly our outside backs. We have got a new group of guys coming through there and he had been significant with his talk and his instruction in that space, so we have got a couple of guys that have stepped up.

“I feel as though we have had a good two weeks preparation and we need to be on our game defensively. Finn Russell, (Stuart) Hogg at the back as well, they bring weapons that some other teams don’t have particularly around the unstructured side of the game, so we have had some guys who have stepped into their place.”

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