Daly 'digs deep' to earn England Six Nations recall against Ireland

Julian Guyer
·3-min read
England's Elliot Daly returns to face Ireland in their Six Nations finale

Eddie Jones praised Elliot Daly for finding "the best of himself" after recalling the versatile back at outside centre for England's Six Nations finale away to Ireland on Saturday.

Daly, best known at Test level as a full-back, returns in place of the injured Henry Slade after being on the bench for last week's 23-20 win over France at Twickenham.

The 28-year-old last played a Test at outside centre against South Africa in 2016.

But Daly, capped 51 times, now finds himself restored to the starting lineup after being dropped at full-back in favour of Max Malins.

Daly impressed after coming on in the second half against Les Bleus and his inclusion is the only change to the team that ended France's hopes of a Grand Slam.

England coach Jones wants Daly to fill the gap left by Slade's left-footed kicking game after he endured a difficult start to the Six Nations.

"Elliot's had to dig down deep into himself and find the best of himself," Jones said on Thursday.

"It's been a tough Six Nations for Elliot and he's coming back into his best form and he's got a great opportunity in his preferred position."

While Jones said he preferred deploying Daly at full-back, the veteran Australian coach was excited by what he could bring to the midfield against Ireland.

"If it's a high-volume kicking game, which it probably will 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," he said.

"And he's got a great engine on him, Elliot. He's strong defensively and we know he's a penetrative runner. If we get some quick ball, he'll trouble him on the outside there."

Jones said a run on Thursday by Slade confirmed he was still troubled by a calf injury suffered in training earlier this week and would be too much of a risk if selected for the trip to Dublin.

Champions England cannot win the Six Nations following defeats to Scotland and Wales.

But victory at the Aviva Stadium against an Ireland side coached by Andy Farrell, the father of England captain Owen Farrell, would put them in credit for the tournament.

England have won their past four matches against Ireland, who narrowly beat Scotland 27-24 last week.

"They've been progressing nicely," said Jones of Ireland. "Their forward play has been exceptional and it's coincided with a higher kicking game that's seen them play some good rugby."

England produced some of their best attacking play of this year's tournament against France.

But Jones has compared their situation to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, where England's exuberant semi-final victory over New Zealand was followed by a loss in the final to South Africa in which they were overpowered up front.

"Experience tells us that if you play in a game like that, like the World Cup semi-final where there is a lot of ball movement, the next game generally the opposition try to take that away from you, which is sensible and the game becomes more of an attritional game," he said.

"So we're preparing for an attritional game and if it happens to go the other way then we want to be ready to take our opportunities."

England (15-1)

Max Malins; Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell (capt), Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Mark Wilson; Charlie Ewels, Maro Itoje; Kyle Sinckler, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Ollie Lawrence, Joe Marchant

Coach: Eddie Jones (AUS)