Theo Dan makes a persuasive plea for an England call-up in front of Steve Borthwick

Theo Dan makes a persuasive plea for an England call-up in front of Steve Borthwick

Theo Dan makes a persuasive plea for an England call-up in front of Steve Borthwick

Theo Dan makes a convincing statement for England call-up in front of Steve Borthwick - Getty Image/David Rogers

Theo Dan makes a convincing statement for England call-up in front of Steve Borthwick – Getty Image/David Rogers

It’s the season for the World Cup bolters and Theo Dan has been making his case for what would be a stunning rise to the England squad as Saracens ended London Irish’ top four hopes ahead of Steve Borthwick.

Dan, a vivacious and busy hooker with a captivating pace, started this season on loan in the Championship with Ampthill but seized opportunities when presented to him during an assured breakthrough year. In the absence of rested Jamie George and Tom Woolstencroft here, he scored one of his side’s five tries and was tidy in all facets.

The 22-year-old Londoner, of Romanian parents, arrived at the Saracen academy as a midfielder. Through an apprenticeship with Bishop’s Stortford in the National Leagues, he worked his way up from Tom Youngs to the front row. This background is evident in his candid and dynamic bearing. Borthwick is believed to be interested in accelerated Dan, which could happen as early as this summer; especially if Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Walker struggle to regain full fitness. Indeed, England’s depth chart under George looks iffy.

Nic Dolly is expected to feature in Leicester Tigers’ bid for a second successive Premiership title. George McGuigan returned for Gloucester and Tom Dunn and Jamie Blamire entered the Six Nations re-organisation. Curtis Langdon is another option. Borthwick, at StoneX Stadium on Sunday with Richard Hill, will want to be confident that Dan’s lineout toss and scrum will be able to meet the testing area requirements. What is evident is how the young Saracen scatters the bodies on the payline to beat the defenders. Dan, third choice in his club, is an exciting prospect with valuable traits.

“He has a bit of an X-factor with his carrying ability and general contact,” said Mark McCall later. “I think he pitched very well today; that was important. He still has work to do and he’s getting a lot of praise, but there are areas of his game that he knows he needs to work on.”

Collectively, Saracens will need to be better to secure their first Premiership title since 2019. McCall hailed a win which looked “significant” due to the “disjointed” nature of this clash. Saracens are likely to face Northampton Saints in the semi-final after struggling through awkward patches to eliminate the Irishman, who will be disappointed at failing to reach the play-offs. Declan Kidney’s side have been 10-0 here and have shown so much promise this year. In addition to Dan, Ben Earl was excellent during an intriguing duel with Tom Pearson. Owen Farrell kicked 20 points and drove things both sides of the ball.

The Irish beat Saracens with a brilliant display in December and have a strong recent record at this ground. They started well. Although Farrell drove a strong defensive run for the home side, making noise with Pearson and then forcing Matt Rogerson to upset, Saracens conceded a scrum penalty which Paddy Jackson slotted in.

Rory Jennings, who has risen impressively in the Irish midfield since the departure of Curtis Rona, put in a strong 50:22 and the Irishman capitalized with little fanfare. So’otala Fa’aso’o made a sizable hole and Rogerson stretched. The Saracens were made to look passive and underpowered during a first quarter marred by unforced errors. It took 25 minutes for any kind of momentum to start. And then, on the stroke of half-time, when they so often hurt their opponents, they strike.

The Irish apparently had done enough to finish the first period with a 10-6 lead when they survived a concerted pass pressure and forced a turnover inside their own 22. Jackson touched, but Alex Goode guessed an opportunity to eliminate tired defenders. Lui bowled a quick line-in to Malins and, though the Irish swarmed the ensuing collapse, Saracens remained calm and played for space on the blind side. Goode and Tompkins worked the ball to Earl, which exploded. Goode followed to pick up an inside pass and finish him off. Although he played poorly, Saracens were ahead at half-time.

Early in the second period, a bristling charge from Dan was stopped by a high tackle from Simmons which produced a yellow card and Saracens immediately punished the Irishman further with Sean Maitland shooting wide. The Irish responded well. Jackson kicked a couple of penalties but Farrell rewarded the pack of him for committing a scrum offence. On the back of Maitland’s forward kick, Dan then vaulted himself over with a muscle drive.

The popular Eroni Mawi scored two tries from close range as Saracens drew away to take first place. Mike Willemse’s consolation score was just that for the Irishman and Northampton are likely to get a semi-final against Saracens.

Kidney smiled ruefully when reminded that McCall had sent a much less experienced team to the Saints last weekend. “All the credit goes to the Saracens for taking the momentum swings that have arisen,” he said. “I know we are improving but we have to win the moments that will put us in a better position.”

Match details

Scoring Sequence: 0-3 Jackson penalty, 0-8 Rogerson try, 0-10 Jackson conversion, 3-10 Farrell penalty, 6-10 Farrell penalty, 11-10 Goode try, 13-10 Farrell conversion, 18-10 Maitland try, 20- 10 Farrell conversion, 20-13 Jackson penalty, 20-16 Jackson penalty, 23-16 Farrell penalty, 28-16 Goal Dan, 30-16 Farrell conversion, 35-16 Mawi goal, 38-16 Farrell penalty, 43-16 Mawi try, 45-16 conversion by Farrell, 45-21 try by Willemse
Saracens: At Goode; M Malins (O Hartley, 76) A Lozowski, N Tompkins, S Maitland (B Harris, 73); O Farrell, I van Zyl (R de Haas, 71); M Vunipola (E Mawi, 66), T Dan (E Lewis, 72), M Riccioni (C Judge, 69), M Itoje, C Hunter-Hill (H Tizard, halftime), N Isiekwe (T Knight, 75) , B Earl, J Wray
London Irish: Charger B; L. Cinti. B van Rensburg, R Jennings, O Hassell-Collins (H Arundell, 50); P Jackson, B White (H O’Sullivan, 67); D Fischetti (T Haffar, 71), A Creevy (M Willemse, 45), O Hoskins L Chawatama, 59), A Ratuniyarawa (C Munga, 54), R Simmons, M Rogerson, T Pearson (J Martin Gonzalez, 67) , S Fa’aso’o (C Cunningham-South 54)
Yellow paper: Simmons, 42
Participation: 9,701

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *