Owen Farrell the ‘right man’ to lead England into Six Nations, Eddie Jones insists

Farrell is due to make his comeback from ankle surgery for Saracens this weekend

Duncan Bech
Tuesday 18 January 2022 13:15
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<p>Farrell will lead England in the Six Nations </p>

Farrell will lead England in the Six Nations

Eddie Jones insists Owen Farrell is still the best candidate to lead England into the Guinness Six Nations despite his lack of game time in the wake of ankle surgery.

Farrell is due to make his comeback from the injury sustained against Australia last autumn when he lines up for Saracens on Sunday, less than a fortnight before the opener against Scotland on 5 February.

“Owen is captain because he has the respect of the team, he’s a winner and he drives the competitive spirit of the team. He’s the right man to lead the team,” Jones said.

“He’s due to play this weekend. Then he has another training week and then he will be eligible for selection, so we’ll have to see where he’s up to.”

Sam Underhill and Elliot Daly have been omitted from the 36-man training squad picked to begin preparations for the Championship in Brighton next week because of their disrupted seasons.

Underhill is recovering from the concussion sustained on Bath duty on New Year’s Day, while Daly has been back in action since December having overcome a stress fracture.

Jones insists that both could yet feature in the Six Nations, indicating they are not victims of the squad overhaul begun in November, but Farrell is poised to continue in England’s backline even though he has played less than either of his fellow 2019 World Cup finalists.

Once again the 30-year-old is preferred ahead of George Ford, who remains in exile despite being at the heart’s of Leicester’s revival this season, and looks set to start at inside centre, with Marcus Smith expected to retain the number 10 jersey.

Manu Tuilagi could miss the Six Nations as recovers from a hamstring injury (Adam Davy/PA)

Courtney Lawes proved a popular captain once Farrell hobbled out of a successful autumn that featured a clean sweep of victories against Tonga, Australia and South Africa, but Jones still sees the Saracens playmaker as central to his plans.

Creating space for Farrell is the doubt over whether Manu Tuilagi will play any part in the Six Nations as he still waits to return from the hamstring injury incurred when the Springboks visited Twickenham.

“Manu’s had a wee setback but we’ll just have to wait and see where he’s up to. He’ll need to get some good training and he’ll need to play a few games,” Jones said.

“If we were 100 per cent optimistic we would say yes, if we were realistic, it’s probably a fifty-fifty.”

Ford, the Gallagher Premiership player of the month for November and December, can feel most aggrieved to be overlooked once again, while it is also looking increasing bleak for Billy and Mako Vunipola.

“They’ve all got areas they need to work on in their games to come back into the team and they’ve got to play at a level where it makes me an idiot if I don’t pick them.” Jones said.

“They’ve all been under consideration. They all have either aspects of their game to look at or fitness areas to improve. They’ve all been spoken to individually.”

The uncapped Orlando Bailey, Alfie Barbeary, Ollie Chessum, Tommy Freeman, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Luke Northmore continue Jones’ refresh of his England squad as he builds for France 2023.

Of these, Barbeary is the most likely to be involved in the Six Nations as the 21-year-old back row continues to impress for Wasps, including a man-of-the-match display against European champions Toulouse on Sunday.

“Alfie hasn’t been picked on his last game, he’s been picked on the back of what we’ve seen over the last two seasons,” Jones said.

“He’s got an extraordinary ability to break tackles and carry the ball forward in close contact.

“He came in as a hooker and he’s ended up as a number eight and he feels his best position is in the back row.

“We agree with him so we’re looking forward to seeing how quickly he can move forward into Test rugby.”

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