'That incident was the sign of a really intelligent defender...'
Saracens boss Mark McCall has saluted the tenacious defending that Max Malins showcased in last weekend’s win by England over the Springboks at Twickenham. The London club’s winger had been highlighting his finishing prowess in the early months of the Gallagher Premiership campaign, scoring seven tries in his two most recent appearances for Saracens.
However, chosen on the England bench for last weekend’s Autumn Nations Series finale versus South Africa, Malins was thrown into the fray following the seventh-minute injury to the try-scoring Manu Tuilagi and the 24-year-old shot to prominence early in the second half with his team under the pump near their line.
In the same move, he mowed down Cobus Reinach just yards from the line and then got to his feet to ensure he was the England player who held up Kwagga Smith over the line to prevent the Springboks from scoring what would have been their opening try in a match that went down the wire before a Marcus Smith penalty clinched the 27-26 win for Eddie Jones’ team.
Being so clinical in defence wasn’t something Malins had a huge reputation for, such is the understandable major focus on his potent finishing ability, but Saracens coach McCall was delighted that his player was able to demonstrate how reliable an all-rounder he really is.
“Both things are driven by the same thing, which is a great intelligence of the game, understanding how he can contribute and make a difference in the match,” explained McCall at his club’s weekly media briefing following a query from RugbyPass.
Saracens boss Mark McCall on the grim November 13 Test rugby afternoon when three of his players, including Owen Farrell, were lost to serious injury #Sale #GallagherPrem #England #Italy #AutumnNationsSeries
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 24, 2021
“That incident you described was the sign of a really intelligent defender so he is really a great all-rounder, Max. He is playing well at the moment, he is playing well in attack. Everyone saw that when he had chances with us, he was scoring tries for fun, but also you saw a different side of Max in that (England) game in that defensive role.
“He has always had an opinion, which is a good thing,” added McCall about a player who spent last season on loan at Bristol before returning to pick up where he left off at Saracens. “He has definitely grown in confidence, he is a couple of years older, a bit more mature, knows his game very well, knows what he wants, is very single-minded and focused about it. He is a great guy to have back.”
The crucial contribution of Malins against the Springboks was something England boss Jones touched on in the aftermath of last weekend’s Twickenham win. “Max is a very talented rugby player,” he enthused. “The best game I have seen him play for England, apart from today, was when he played full-back against France in the Six Nations. He was outstanding.
“He has got great pace, has got a good feel for the game and defensively he is improving all the time. He has benefitted from his time at Bristol and he is a really, really handy player for us because he can play full-back, wing or standoff. When you consider we have got (George) Furbank who can also play full-back and standoff, we have got really good cover in that area and we are pleased about that.”
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