Under-fire England captain Owen Farrell has been given a timely boost with Elliot Daly revealing he moved clubs in order to play with him.
Farrell has been way off his best in this Six Nations, leading former team mates and ex-players to question his place in the side.
But ahead of England’s must-win trip to unbeaten Wales on Saturday, Daly insists the skipper is still revered within the squad.
“For the past five, six years for me he has been THE guy you want to stick around,” said the fullback.
“Half my thing of going to Saracens was to play with Owen, to learn from him every day.
“His knowledge of rugby is amazing, what he’s been through as an England and Saracens player winning European Cups and Premierships.
“He is always the most competitive guy on the pitch. And off the pitch he sets the example for all of us.”
Daly, 28, built his reputation as one of the game’s classiest three-quarters during nine years at Wasps.
It was there he began an England career which this weekend reaches 50 caps; there his electric running persuaded the 2017 Lions he should start all three Tests against New Zealand.
Two years later, having been switched to fullback and helped England reach the World Cup final in Japan, he upped sticks and headed to Saracens.
It earned him a decent pay day but, the way Daly tells it, the chance to better himself working day in day out with Farrell was key.
“For me it was more the bond with Owen,” he said. “Fly-half and fullback have a bond on the pitch. We know what each other wants.
“That only comes from playing, training and putting in the time together off the pitch. For me it was about how we could take that even further forward and that was by going to Saracens and learning and training every day to get that bond as good as possible.
“Because he’s one of the best players in the world. You want to be around players like that.”
England are getting the best out of neither Farrell nor Daly at the moment. The performance against Italy was better than Scotland, admittedly, but that is not saying much.
Lions coaching legend Sir Ian McGeechan believes Farrell has become “emblematic of the conservative style of play England have adopted since the World Cup”.
He feels he is paying the price for them not knowing how they want to play yet agrees with Daly that he remains the jewel in England’s crown.
England last night called up Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell after Harry Randall was ruled out of the Six Nations with an ankle injury.