Wasps’ Elliot Daly ‘a cert’ for England squad, says Dai Young
Eddie Jones is watching a lot of rugby at the moment but England’s head coach will struggle to find a more striking exhibition than Wasps’ fluent performance beside the equally fast-flowing river Avon. While Bath meandered, their rivals were outstanding and the form of Elliot Daly, in particular, has given Jones plenty to ponder over the festive period.
Dai Young, Wasps’ director of rugby, reckons Daly is already “a cert” for England’s Six Nations squad and, along with James Haskell, Joe Simpson, Joe Launchbury and Matt Mullan, he gave the new coaching panel another hefty nudge. Teams who win this impressively away from home after losing to the same opponents six days earlier tend to have some strong characters in their midst.
Both Daly and a satisfied Young were quick to salute a fine Wasps forward effort, with Nathan Hughes and Ashley Johnson outstanding, but the centre’s near-faultless display against England’s incumbent No13, Jonathan Joseph, was just as conspicuous as Bath succumbed to the heaviest home defeat in their European history.
Daly is fit, quick and increasingly confident, with the unselfish skills of his midfield partner Ben Jacobs making him look better still. Young has been urging the former England age-group cricketer to concentrate on the basics rather than attempt 30-metre miracle passes and that advice is being heeded. “I’m just trying to do the simple things well and hopefully I catch the eye of someone in the crowd,” confirmed Daly, fully aware of Jones’s presence.
Nor is he about to tempt fate by publicly agreeing with Young’s Six Nations prediction. “I don’t think you can say dead cert. JJ has been the form 13 for the last two seasons and is just coming back from injury. Manu Tuilagi is coming back too … a lot of people are competing for places. We will see when the squad is announced but all I’m trying to do is play well for Wasps.”
The Daly bread and butter – pace, defensive solidity, sure distribution and game awareness – also incorporates a highly effective left boot which, among other things, delivered the first drop-goal of his career. The Bath backline, in contrast, spent most of the afternoon on their heels, with Joseph frequently taking the ball standing still. George Ford was ruthlessly singled out by the marauding Hughes and, even after Semesa Rokoduguni’s early try against the run of play, the hosts became increasingly becalmed.
It was a less than joyful prelude to the club’s Christmas party on Saturday night and Mike Ford, their head coach, admitted coaches and players alike would be involved in a blunt honesty session this week. “We’re going to review everything and ask a few questions. We’ll look at everything: the way we do things or whether we’re getting stale doing the same things. We’ll get a lot of flak but it is what’s said inside the camp that counts. We’ve all got to front up and stay together.”
Ford, nevertheless, openly concedes his side look “fragile” in terms of belief and “lack a bit of leadership”. Injuries are also mounting – Francois Louw’s continuing groin problem forced him off after 20 minutes, Kyle Eastmond has damaged ribs and Matt Banahan injured a knee. With Ford Jr also among those likely to be rested for Sunday’s league game against Worcester, another home defeat really would leave the Premiership’s ninth-placed club staring at an uncomfortable new year.
For all the investment of Bruce Craig Bath still do not possess forwards as dynamic as Hughes and George Smith, alongside whom Haskell is riding shotgun with visible relish. If the hosts were slightly unlucky when Simpson seized on a loose ball and sent Daly scooting away for Wasps’ opening try, they had no answer to the straight running, deft handling and pacy counterattacking that steadily took the game away from them.
Jimmy Gopperth, with 23 points, also had a notable day at fly-half, scoring his side’s second try before a sharp line-break set up Alapati Leuia for a third. It effectively leaves Bath requiring at least two victories from their last three games, two of them against the champions Toulon, to have any chance of progressing. Wasps, on the other hand, should go through if they collect a losing bonus point in the south of France and then thump Leinster in Coventry. In every sense this was a massive win for them.
Bath Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Eastmond (Priestland, h-t), Banahan (Homer, 68); Ford, Matawalu (Cook, 51); Auterac (Lahiff, 46), Batty (Webber, 48), Wilson (Thomas, 46), Garvey, Attwood, Houston, Louw (capt; Mercer, 20), Denton (Ewels, 70).
Try Rokoduguni. Con Ford. Pen Ford.
Sin-bin Rokoduguni 72.
Wasps Miller; Halai, Daly, Jacobs (Leiua, 61), Piutau (Robson, 75); Gopperth, Jackson, 75), Simpson; Mullan (McIntyre, 61), Johnson (Shervington, 54), Cittadini (Swainston, 65), Launchbury, Davies (Gaskell, 61), Haskell (capt), Smith, Hughes (Jones, 65).
Tries Daly, Gopperth, Leuia. Cons Gopperth 3. Pens Gopperth 4. Drop-goal Daly.
Referee R Poite (France).
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