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Saracens boss Mark McCall has hailed Aled Davies’ impact on the club following his “courageous” move from Welsh rugby.
Former Scarlets and Ospreys scrum-half Davies made the last of his 20 Wales appearances against 2019 World Cup pool-stage opponents Uruguay in Japan.
Because he does not meet Wales’ minimum 60-cap selection eligibility rule for exiled players, Davies knew his Test career would come to a halt.
But the 29-year-old has proved a key part of Saracens’ Gallagher Premiership title push and their European Challenge Cup campaign that has teed up a semi-final against Toulon on Saturday.
Davies’ first season at Saracens saw him playing in the Championship following the club’s relegation for repeated salary cap breaches.
They are now back at the domestic and European top table, though, challenging strongly for honours on both fronts.
“Aled was a player we had spotted who we thought had all the capabilities that we wanted in that scrum-half position,” rugby director McCall said.
“It was a very brave move from Aled to come here, because effectively having been capped by Wales very early in his career he was saying goodbye to international rugby while he was here. It was a courageous move for him to make.
“He felt that he needed a fresh start and something new. He had moved from the Scarlets to the Ospreys, and things weren’t quite working out the way he had hoped.
“Then of course, we are in the Championship all of a sudden, which is not ideal. But he was prepared to embed himself in the club, which he has done.
“Sometimes it takes time in a pivotal position to be the player that we knew he was going to be, but he has been incredible this year.
“His performance level has been outstanding, and we are very lucky to have him.
“He is everything you need from a scrum-half – his passing and his speed between breakdowns is as good as I’ve seen.
“He is an incredibly tough competitor, so defensively, he really adds. It is important you have all the skills at your disposal, and he kicks the ball beautifully as well.
“It’s just his all-round game and his competitive spirit.”
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Davies lines up in a Saracens side against Toulon at Stade Felix-Mayol that sees England prop Mako Vunipola returning to action.
Vunipola has been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury during Saracens’ victory over Premiership title rivals Leicester 10 weeks ago.
Two other changes from Saracens’ quarter-final victory over Gloucester see Max Malins replacing Sean Maitland, who has a hamstring injury, and Nick Isiekwe returning at lock alongside Maro Itoje.