Is Owen Farrell playing today? England make decision over captain after positive Covid test

The Saracens fly-half has been ruled out of Saturday’s Twickenham showdown

Duncan Bech
Saturday 06 November 2021 14:01
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<p>Farrell will miss the game on Saturday </p>

Farrell will miss the game on Saturday

England have encountered a major setback on the eve of their Autumn Nations Series clash with Tonga after captain Owen Farrell tested positive for Covid.

The Saracens fly-half has been ruled out of Saturday’s Twickenham showdown following the outcome of further lateral flow and PCR tests.

The RFU confirmed the news on Saturday with Northampton’s George Furbank now starting at 10 with Courtney Lawes captaining the side.

Jones said: “As Owen is unavailable to us, we’ve made these changes to the team to face Tonga today. It’s a great chance for the team to see how we adapt to challenges and keep focused on preparing for a big game. We can’t wait to play in front of a full crowd at Twickenham.”

All players and staff underwent a round of PCR testing on Thursday after a member of Jones backroom staff produced a positive result, but only Farrell has come back as a confirmed case.

Jones had planned to start Marcus Smith at fly-half with Farrell operating at inside centre in a dual playmaker partnership, but Smith has been unable to train fully so far this week because of his injury.

The Harlequins sensation was deemed fit enough for a place on the bench in the hope that he would prove his fitness in Friday’s practice session, but he could now be thrust into the starting XV.

The only other fly-half option in the matchday 23 is replacement George Furbank, who Jones sees as a full-back who can cover 10.

England forwards coach Richard Cockerill refused to disclose the contingency plan at fly-half and for the captaincy if Farrell is ruled out, although he confirmed that Smith trained fully on Friday morning.

“Owen’s in isolation. We’re going through the normal protocols. He’s fine. We’re just waiting to see what happens next. If Owen is available, he will play. It’s as simple as that,” Cockerill said.

“Hopefully he’ll be good to play for us, but at this point we’ll just have to wait and see. We’ve got great options in the leadership group and 10 position.

“We’ve got a good leadership group and a good group of players. Things get thrown at you and you have to deal with the adversity.

“We have a resilient group and this is a good test to make sure that whatever happens, we perform and do exactly what we want to do.”

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