Eddie Jones is impressed by Elliot Daly’s navigation through a difficult period of his career after picking the versatile England back at outside centre for the first time in almost five years.
A week after being ousted by Max Malins at full-back, Daly has been reinstated to the starting XV for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations finale against Ireland in Dublin after Henry Slade failed to recover from a calf injury.
Daly last appeared in the midfield against South Africa in 2016 and following a two-year spell on the wing, he reigned as England’s first-choice 15 until a slide in form resulted in his demotion to the bench after winning his 50th cap against Wales in round three.
Arriving as a second-half replacement in the 23-20 victory over France last Saturday, the 28-year-old made an impact with two eye-catching runs and now returns in a new role.
“Elliot’s had to dig down deep into himself and find the best of himself,” head coach Jones said.
“It’s been a tough Six Nations for Elliot but he’s coming back into his best form and he’s got a great opportunity in his preferred position.
“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 are going to be really important.
“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 Ireland on the outside.”
Slade was injured in training on Monday and despite England’s optimism that he would be fit for their climax to the Six Nations, he has failed to recover in time.
“Henry ran this morning (Thursday). He just wasn’t quite right and was still feeling it a bit,” Jones said.
“Given the position he plays it would be too much of a risk, so he had to pull out of the team this morning.”
Daly’s return is the only change to the team that ended France’s Grand Slam march at Twickenham last Saturday.
The vacancy created on the bench by Daly’s promotion is filled by Joe Marchant, who was called into the squad as cover for Slade.
Daly has been preferred at outside centre ahead of Ollie Lawrence, who is also included among the replacements, and Paolo Odogwu, who will not have played a minute of the tournament.
England conceded the title through their round three defeat by Wales in Cardiff and having beaten favourites France, they will look to continue rebuilding by prevailing at the Aviva Stadium.
In dispatching Les Bleus, they produced their best performance since the 2019 World Cup when New Zealand were crushed in the semi-finals, only for South Africa to emerge convincing winners in the showpiece a week later.
Jones said: “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, in the next game generally the opposition try to take that away from you.
“That is sensible and the game becomes more of an attritional game. 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.”