Elliot Daly is a must for England, but also a big British and Irish Lions contender

Ollie Phillips
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Elliot Daly is a player who is going from strength to strength (Source: Getty)

Amid all the “ruckgate” chaos of England’s Six Nations clash with Italy at the weekend, Elliot Daly underlined that he is a player who continues to grow. He’s excellent and fast becoming one of the first names on Eddie Jones’s teamsheet.

More than that, the 24-year-old has firmly put himself in contention for this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour to face world champions New Zealand – he’s been that good.

His versatility cannot be underestimated. He covers both wings, full-back and centre, while he is also a goal-kicker. At the very least he’s in the running, although I’m convinced he’s on the plane.

The final two rounds of the Six Nations are going to be crucial in terms of filling in blanks and solidifying the thoughts of Lions head coach Warren Gatland.

Who is going to be the No9-10 axis? Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton? Ben Youngs and George Ford? Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell? There are crucial head-to-heads coming up over the next few weeks and a lot of Lions decisions will be determined.

Aside from Daly, there were other impressive England performances against the Azzurri. Winger Jack Nowell pressed his case to start against Scotland by scoring two tries and being a general livewire.

Second-row Joe Launchbury was a machine, a man mountain. He was world class and despite all the tentativeness due to Italy’s tactics in the first half, he was still composed and managed some tremendous ball carries.

Jones was visibly frustrated after the Italy game, during which England’s opponents opted against forming rucks, meaning no offside line was formed. I believe a lot of that was because he was denied the opportunity to look at various permutations in the backs.

The Australian will have been left with a few unanswered questions about who should play against Scotland on 11 March.

Another important point to raise is that if England want to be the best team on the planet and go on to win World Cups then they have to be able to react to curveballs, such as Italy’s tactics.

They simply didn’t find a solution quickly enough and if they were playing a top quality team, or maybe even Scotland next week or Ireland in Dublin, then there would have been no way back for them. The game would have been gone by half time.

I don’t believe that World Rugby needs to review the laws of the game following all the furore. It’s a law which has been exploited many times before, in fact Jones himself did it while in charge of Australia.

When the Wallabies played New Zealand, they would ensure no ruck was formed and back-rower George Smith would cause chaos. The Chiefs did it too in Super Rugby, while it happens all the time in the Sevens World Series.

It’s just gamesmanship. England let themselves down for 40 minutes and didn’t play as smart as they should have. There is no need for any law amendments.

Ollie Phillips is a former England Sevens captain and now a director at PwC, focusing on organisational, cultural and technological change.

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