Injury might have meant Owen Farrell had a disjointed start to the season but Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes the British & Irish Lion is close to finally recapturing his finest form.
A knee ligament problem meant Farrell appeared twice from the bench for Sarries at the start of the season before making his first start against London Irish in September only to pick up another injury.
It meant the fly-half went into England’s autumn Tests lacking match fitness and lost his starting spot when the final match with Australia came around.
However, McCall believes a run of games has brought Farrell, who appeared in the decisive third Test win for the Lions in the summer of 2013, close to his best.
"I have some sympathy with the England selectors because Owen had been their go-to guy for a couple of years. They obviously had a lot of faith and belief in him," director of rugby McCall said.
"But he'd only had one game of rugby going into the All Blacks match and that turned out to not be enough.
"Owen's not easy to damage, but no one's impregnable and Owen's the same. During that period he came in for an unfair amount of critical attention given that everyone knew he'd only played one game of rugby.
"That's the nature of the beast when you play fly-half for England, I suppose. He's been really good for us and we've asked him to play at 12 a couple of times.
"It's unfortunate that he didn't play at Gloucester on Friday night, but he'd played five lots of 80 minutes in a row previous to that. Game by game he's got better and better."