theo dan marcus smith
Theo Dan may be able to look back on a year in which he established himself as a Test international, but he is taking nothing for granted.

Over the past 12 months, Dan has won the Gallagher Premiership with Saracens, made his England debut, scored three tries in four matches to help England to third place at France 2023, and then featured in all five England matches in the Guinness Men's Six Nations.

Even so, the 23-year-old hooker is aware that he needs to keep proving himself week after week if he wants to add to his 12 caps, starting with England’s tour to Japan and New Zealand in June and July.

“We want to be competing against the best in the world and seeing where we are,” Dan tells us. “Hopefully if I’m picked, I’ll really want to be getting my teeth stuck into it and give it a good crack.

“It’s incredibly exciting. We've barely scratched the surface of what we can do and what our potential is. Japan first and then going away to New Zealand, I don’t think there are many greater tests in world rugby than trying to get a result there.

“For them having an English team touring their home soil, they will want to beat us two-nil. For us, trying to stop that is a challenge in itself and is incredibly exciting. Testing ourselves against the world’s best is incredibly exciting as players. It’s what I dreamed of as a kid, and if I’m selected it’s going to be extremely exciting.”


If Dan is in any doubt that he is now firmly fixed in the England squad then he just needs to look across the home changing room at Twickenham and see a huge print of him celebrating his try against Argentina in the France 2023 Bronze Medal Match.

That try showed why he has become second-choice hooker behind the England captain and his Saracens teammate Jamie George. Having let Argentina fly-half Santiago Carreras slip through his grasp to score between the posts, he responded in the best way possible by charging down Carreras’ kick to score less than a minute later.

Dan continued his all-energy performances as England ended this year's Six Nations with three wins and two defeats. In all five matches he came off the bench to replace George, but as the Championship went on Borthwick entrusted him with more minutes on the pitch.

Against Italy, Wales, and Scotland, Dan entered the fray after the hour mark, but against Ireland and France, he came on with well over a quarter of the match remaining - a reflection of the changing face of England and the introduction of young players over the season.

“I think the main thing from that campaign is that we were stepping forward in the right direction,” he said. “From the World Cup, it was a different group. There are a lot of younger guys and guys with less experience, and new caps like Manny [wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso] and Chandler [Cunningham-Smith].

“Marcus [Smith] was taking more of a central role with Faz [Owen Farrell] gone and it felt like a different group, a lot younger but the main thing is beforehand we got the cohesion and then in the games took a step in the right direction.

“With Felix Jones coming in as the defence coach it changed our defensive system. It was always going to take a couple of games to iron out the problems, but you could see towards the end we were going in the right direction.

“I’m so proud to have played my part and I hope to keep it going because it is such an exciting group and such an exciting time. We need to keep taking the steps forwards as a team.”


Dan’s reticence to presume he’ll be part of Borthwick’s squad reflects Saracens’ involvement in the Premiership play-offs.

The London side are the defending champions and travel to Northampton Saints for their semi-final on Friday 31 May, with the Premiership Final taking place at Twickenham on Saturday 8 June.

Whenever their season ends, Saracens will wave farewell to Owen Farrell, Mako and Billy Vunipola, a trio of players who have taken the club and England to great heights, most notably in the 2016 Grand Slam.

“Saints are a brilliant team that are going really well this season and have a lot of momentum behind them,” Dan said. “But we know how good we can be when we click, and it is all about getting our preparation right and giving ourselves the best chance.

“Faz, Mako and Billy are leaving, and the main motivation is to do it for them to make sure we send them off in the right way. A trophy at the end of the season would be the perfect send-off, a fairytale ending and nothing less than they deserve.”


One senior Saracens player that won’t be leaving is Dan’s hooking rival, and national team captain, George.

George has shown throughout his career that he is happy taking on leadership roles, whether for England, the British and Irish Lions or Saracens, and Dan expects him to do so for the club next season.

Dan, who combines rugby while studying for a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at King's College, is quick to praise George for all the help he has given on his rise - one that has taken him from playing for Ampthill in the Championship to playing at Test level.

“He's amazing, he’s been amazing to me,” he said. “I began working really closely with him three years ago and he’s taken me under his wing, with a lot of throwing sessions when I was plying my trade in the national leagues, and a lot of advice and mentorship.

“He is someone I look up to and admire. You saw in the Six Nations how much of a leader he is. I'll always cherish and always be grateful for how much I've learned from him.”

Saracens will face Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens in the Gallagher Premiership Semi-Final on Friday 31st May (19:45).