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The statistic that sets Elliot Daly apart from any other 2021 Lion

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England back Elliot Daly heads into Saturday’s third Test versus the Springboks on the cusp of completing the extraordinary feat of playing a part in all eight Lions matches on South African territory. The versatile Saracens operator is the only player in Warren Gatland’s squad to have featured in all seven 2021 tour matches in the southern hemisphere so far and he will complete the full house if he steps off the Test bench in Saturday’s series finale in Cape Town. 


A tourist in 2017 in New Zealand where he played in seven of the ten matches that took place in the southern hemisphere on that trip, Daly has started four matches in South Africa (the first Test versus the Springboks, both games versus the Sharks and the clash with the Stormers) while he also appeared off the bench in the Lions’ other three games (South Africa A, last weekend’s second Springboks Test and the opener against Sigma Lions).

The interesting difference on this tour is that Daly has been a starter at outside centre, the position where he last started for England in 2016. In contrast, his five starts on the previous Lions tour were on the left wing in 2017. 

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The latest RugbyPass Offload looks ahead of the Lions series decider
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The latest RugbyPass Offload looks ahead of the Lions series decider

His 403 minutes on the pitch in South Africa have seen him score one try, provide two try assists, give five offloads, make eleven carries for a 149-metre gain, leave 13 defenders beaten, make 19 kicks in open play, put in 21 tackles, make 36 passes and kick for 452 metres. 

On the debit side, he has conceded six turnovers, missed eleven tackles and was also involved in that compelling early first Test hit from Lukhanyo Am which left him on his backside in Cape Town, but under pressure Lions attack coach Gregor Townsend is a fan of what Daly has brought to the table on tour in South Africa.  

“It’s a credit to his ability, his endurance of being able to back up games,” said the Scotsman about Daly’s ever-present inclusion on the Lions teamsheet. “He has worked really hard, things like his kick chase, getting back for opposition kicks has been outstanding. It shows his adaptability. He has run at 13, has run at 15, he has covered games and training sessions on the wing. It’s a credit to him that he is involved in all three Test matches and is covering a number of positions tomorrow [Saturday].”


It was on May 6, the day of the Lions tour squad announcement, that Townsend initially outlined his enthusiasm regarding Daly’s selection as a midfielder for the South African trip rather than as a back three player where he had traditionally featured for England and Saracens. “As a 13 it could go very well for us, the goal-kicking, the left foot – all the various attributes he has are positives,” he said.      


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