Lions assistant coach Gregor Townsend has revealed that Elliot Daly’s performances in the second tier of English rugby helped to seal his place in the touring squad.
Daly was one of a few surprise inclusions in this year’s British and Irish Lions squad, as the versatile backline player endured a disappointing Six Nations campaign with England.
Townsend was speaking to RugbyPass about Daly’s inclusion and revealed that the Englishman’s reaction to getting dropped to the bench for his country, as well as his recent performances for Saracens, was enough to convince the Lions coaching team.
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“The way he came off the bench against France showed that he reacted really well to being dropped,” Townsend commented.
“He got two line breaks in that game and the way France defend isn’t too dissimilar to South Africa, a very blitz defence, and he showed really good footwork.
“So then to see him in the flesh [with Saracens] and see what a class player he is when he is in form and full of confidence really got me excited.
“I watched his game at the weekend against Nottingham and even though he was at full-back he was a second receiver a lot, he worked really hard and on the back of that, he was a successful Lion and someone that can cover more than one position.”
‘It could be a positive playing in the Championship.’
Saracens’ relegation from the Gallagher Premiership due to breaching salary cap regulations has been less than ideal for their star players, as the north London club’s Lions hopefuls only opportunity to play top-tier rugby in the last season has been in test matches.
However, Saracens’ current status as a tier-two side hasn’t seemed to do their Lions chances any harm, as five of their players have been named in the 37-man squad, which is more than any other club.
Townsend reckons that Saracens’ time spent in the Championship may have actually helped their star players, as it has allowed several of them to rebuild their confidence after a poor Six Nations.
“I do believe that it could be a positive for these Saracens guys playing in the Championship,” Townsend revealed.
“From my own experience of playing a season with Northampton in the Championship, I was full of confidence getting a lot of ball in hand and taking that to the international stage.”