Perhaps the biggest surprise of today’s belated England team announcement was that Wasps centre Elliot Daly was to move to the unfamiliar position of wing, with incumbent Jonny May dropping out of the 23 completely. However, Daly’s inclusion embodies so much about the Eddie Jones era.
Although Gloucester speedster May missed England training on Thursday morning because of injury, he was deemed fully fit for Saturday’s fixture, but head coach Eddie Jones has decided on moving centre Daly to the left wing.
If May was struggling with injury then Jones could have recalled the dropped Marland Yarde to the side to partner Semesa Rokoduguni, who will finally earn his second cap for his adopted country, but instead opted to rejig his back division and return Jonathan Joseph to his old 13 shirt.
So why shunt Daly around the side? Well, the Wasps player was seriously impressive in his first ever start for his country that came after waiting most of the year sat on the bench.
Secondly, Daly is a versatile player with an impressive skills set that means he could easily adopt to being on the wing. The centre spent much of his early club career as a fullback and even trained with England as an inside centre during the Six Nations.
It also means Jones get to see if the two fantastic talents of Bath’s Jonathan Joseph and Elliot Daly can combine effectively in the same back division. Both offer pace, guile and distribution skills that have eluded England’s best backs for so long.
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But in the longer term, having a utility back-type player of Daly’s quality would be particularly useful in a reduced 31 man World Cup squad.
Although Alex Goode is given another chance to push his case to the England coaches that he should be the country’s number one fullback ahead of Mike Brown, that Daly appears to be undroppable at the moment and can cover so many positions on the pitch means he is pretty certain of keeping England’s number 23 shirt. It was Daly, after all, who has kept Goode out of the match day squad in recent games.
As for May, he will be disappointed not to be involved this weekend after a first return to the international scene in a year after recovering from a serious knee injury. His fantastic finish in the corner for England’s first try against South Africa and his excellent kick-chase all game posed the Springboks serious problems.
Yet by not recalling Marland Yarde Eddie Jones has made a scathing criticism of the Harlequins winger – the Australian would rather experiment with a novice in the position than hand yet another chance to the disappointing 10 cap international who was solid but hardly spectacular last weekend.
The make-up of the back division has been the cause of much debate amongst England fans today, but give Daly the ball in space in any position and he is electric. Even in his relatively new position of wing, the Fijians should be vary wary of one of the Red Rose’s most dynamic players.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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